Clues that a play is securely aimed at middle-aged luvvies: having young characters make pointed use of social media in a way that makes the oldies roll their eyes. Jumpy, by UK writer April De Angelis does this, making exactly the same joke twice in a row in case we didn’t appreciate it the first time, when Lyndsey (Tariro Mavondo) who’s in the lounge room downstairs texts Tilly (Brenna Harding) who’s upstairs. It would have been funny if she’d just done it, but the script has her say ‘I’ll text her’. And then again.
I wanted to like this play – De Angelis is a peer. I wanted to identify with the characters and their stories, I wanted to laugh but I hated it. It felt very dated, the mother-daughter dynamic reminding me of conflicts I had with my mother forty years ago. It made me cringe, hiding as it does behind pseudo-feminism lite to present clichéd characters that are sorry for themselves. Hilary, played by Jane Turner, feels stuck in her boring marriage to Mark (David Treddinick), is overworked, unfulfilled, menopausal and locked in tension with her truly ghastly daughter who’s ‘acting out’ sexually but who ‘isn’t a slut’ (Hear that? A loud alarm bell). Hilary’s best mate is Frances (played by Marina Prior), single, sexy and hungry. Hilary and Frances slosh back the wine and complain. The character of Frances seems irrelevant to the story and is there as a trope. Her burlesque moment on the beach is simply awful. It’s a patronising joke where she’s meant to be her ‘claiming her sexuality’, a horrible moment which might have worked had she been allowed to be truly alluring instead of ridiculous. The male characters are ineffectual and floundering.
In short, the play could have been interesting if the female characters challenged the hetero-normative mainstream assumptions about the good life instead of having them buy into feeling less worthy and less attractive rather than wiser and stronger as they age. But the writer has sold out feminism for entertainment. She’s messing with my cause and I won’t be nice about it. Someone says the word ‘abortion’ but in true US sitcom fashion, the pregnant character has a miscarriage so the play can avoid taking a real stand. Same with the word ‘condom,’ teenage pregnancy being all the girls’ fault.
Pamela Rabe directs. The actors work hard and there’s an elegance about the staging and set and design. Unfeminists, and those who were nowhere near Greenham Common at the time, might enjoy it.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
by April De Angelis
Director Pamela Rabe
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner VIC
Dates: 31 January – 14 March 2015
Tickets: from $73 – under 30s $36
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 | mtc.com.au