Sunday, November 06, 2016

I wouldn't usually go anywhere near a "deliciously irreverent West End comedy". Where's the misery in that? But as my seduction by the new Artistic Director of the Lyceum culminated in the rash purchase of a season ticket, I found myself in the busy Lyceum bar on Tuesday night, awaiting a play called Jumpy.

In fairness, the play has Cora Bisset at the (directing) helm. As I want to be her when I grow up (and learn to both play numerous musical instruments and compose), it was always going to be interesting. 

But the posters are covered with a resigned woman looking quizzically to camera with a glass of wine in her hand and a younger women staring at her phone. On reflection, the poster put me off. Where's the grit, grime and dirt of day to day (post-Trumpian) life in that?

The play started promisingly. A woman walked on stage, dumped her bags, poured a glass of wine and the lights went out. I love that statement. Completely unnecessary but a beautiful teasing opener. I wonder if this is in the script or if it was (as became my internal mantra) "Cora's work".

And then a familiar story unfolded of a fifty-something woman struggling to see the magic in her husband anymore, struggling to get along with a stroppy teenager struggling to get her own voice heard in the world, struggling to support her struggling to come to terms with her own (un-coupled) mortality best friend, struggling to resist the allure of the struggling to come to terms with his own self-absorption gentleman caller. It has all the hallmarks of West End comedy pot-boiling fodder. 

But it was a very funny script. It was brilliantly delivered with such heartfelt sincerity that I was glad my companion was snoring gently next to me so she didn't see the tears rolling down my face.

It looked gorgeous. The set was jumbly heaped high with the cluttered detritus of thirty years of two tangled but separate lives. 

And it was featured a glorious scene where - how to even describe it - the characters just danced. (The teenager cavorted in a wardrobe.) It was surreal and poignant and wonderful. ("Cora's work"?)

So hats off to Cora for taking this script which was funny and insightful and sharp and smart and making it into an excellent night of theatre. I salute you.
School plays are a funny thing. Speaking from personal experience of years of having my dreams crushed when I got one meagre part after another. And I've had cause to see a few in recent times.

Done well, few things beat a "kids show". I still remember an excellent production of Rent at Nottingham Arts Theatre. The young ones all sobbed in each others' arms on stage at the curtain call (it was the last night), presumably as they'd loved doing it so much. Done badly, it's excruciating.

This week saw me grumpily attending a school production of Arabian Nights. Dominic Cooke's script is perfectly fashioned to give lots of kids lots of chances. There are (could be) inumerable numbers of kids standing about cloaked or in morph suits (and sometimes both). There are a few decent-sized parts (Shahrazad, for example) that feature throughout the story. And there are gorgeous cameos aplenty. Which could be doubled or tripled or whatever you fancy. False beards dealt neatly with the usual abundance of girls versus boys. I'm fascinated to see that the RSC managed it originally with 9 actors. I tried and failed to count them all up in the curtain call (admittedly, I failed because I was so glad it was over) but there must have been at least thirty of them. Maybe many more. 

I've been so scarred by a heavy-handed pantomime and a shreiking Crucible that I awaited this curtain up with bad-tempered dread. Unreasonably as it turned out. The set was smart and pretty. The costumes were abundant and lovely. The music was well done. Their lights were nuts - so very clever and expensive I was wracked with jealousy. And the acting was less of a mash-up of abilities than it can be as the less able children were managed into morph suits and the excellent ones had plenty opportunity to be excellent. 

Miriam was most excellent of all. Of course I'm biased. But there were some great comic turns. The (17 year old) mother's anguish at turning her daughter over to the beheading-happy king seemed as genuine but gently managed as you can get at 17. There was a lovely greedy wife. An excellent rolled up in a carpet boy. And lots of nice one liners.

Overall, it was much more comfortable fodder for the proudly pleased parents than the stern morality of last November's production. They were no doubt grateful and I was too.
As I wanted to see Grid Iron's Crude but failed to make it, please enjoy Brian's excellent review instead. (And reading his excellent review, I'm possibly glad I saved myself the trip.)