• Mon. Dec 11th, 2023

Image courtesy of The Lyceum

The Lyceum
Until 12th November

In conversation with The Student, director Cora Bissett spoke of the difficulty in directing a comedy: “you just don’t know how funny it will be until the audience is watching”, she laughs. Luckily for Bissett the show was every bit as humorous as planned. Though to say that Jumpy is only a comedy is a massive understatement. Dense with nuance, this show delivered on every level and, unlike some scripts written about the trials of daily life, it remained far from dry.

Relocated to Glasgow to give it more relevance, Jumpy tells the story of a mother and daughter both engaged in pivotal life stages and their struggles both with one another and those around them. Approaching fifty, Hilary (Pauline Knowles), finds herself looking for more, and questioning whether what she has is enough. A feminist in her youth, she fights the over-sexualisation of her daughter Tilly (Molly Vevers) before having to accept that today’s expression of female strength is an altogether different entity.

It was clear even before the auditorium had filled that this show had a lot to say. Piles of furniture and household paraphernalia formed large barricade-like structures that ran from floor to ceiling of the stage, the border within the proscenium arch covered with peeling paint and old wallpaper: a frame that stood around each scene like a perfectly timed photograph.

At first glance it would appear that these structures would allow for minimal use of the stage. This, though, was quickly proved wrong as each character, but in particular Hilary, transformed and used elements of the stage to accommodate each scene. In fact, the sense of familiarity whilst interacting with the set elevated the performance. The metaphor thus presented, the ‘mess’ of our lives, might have been a little obvious, but it did not matter. It was honest and simple, like the best shows always are.

The musical transitions between each scene were at times effective and at other times a little bewildering. This can also be said for the ‘dance’ number (or perhaps physical theatre piece?) that brought the first act to fruition. That is not to say that it was not good, rather that it did not feel relevant. Jumpy, though hilarious, felt gritty, wholesome, real. It did not need this addition; in fact in many ways it detracted from the performances that had preceded it. That said, it arguably accompanied certain elements of the storyline, which at times were a little outlandish.

As Bissett rightly suggests, this play is not simply an exposé of a mother-daughter relationship – it is heightened, it is “the eye of the storm”. The dynamic between Hilary and Tilly would undoubtedly prove all too familiar for many an audience member. Knowles and Vevers interacted with one another effortlessly, believably; at times it felt more like watching a film. You could have been a mother, daughter, father, son, husband, wife, or friend: it was almost impossible to leave without recognising yourself in the words. But, as Bissett  thoughtfully suggests, this comment is in no way “accusatory”; no, rather it gives the viewer a sense of solace.

For example, the relationship between Hilary and her husband Mark (Stephen McCole) is thoughtfully relatable. The habitual routine, the knowing looks, the patterns of life, were so well rehearsed that they felt hypnotic. Though she spends much of the play in search of fulfilment, it makes perfect sense that she will return to this existence by the time the play concludes. There is comfort in these interactions, homeliness; like putting your favourite jumper back on, or hugging your childhood toy.

This was a delicate study of the human condition, sensitively and eloquently realised by Bissett. In this sense, Jumpy was the perfect justification for her move from acting to directing four years ago. Though this was a departure from what she is used to, typically conceiving and directing her shows, she spoke of the “security” found in a script as well-written as April De Angelis’s. Bissett wanted the audience to leave feeling comforted, to give them “an idea of acceptance”, and that she most certainly did.

By Alys Gilbert

MA Fine Art (with History of Art) Theatre Editor

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