Legally Blonde (Birmingham)
Le nozze di Figaro


By • West End
WOS Rating:
The Royal Court season at the Duke of York's continues with Nina Raine's spot-on and sparky production of April De Angelis's Jumpy, the only play I know whose title refers both to the heroine's state of mind and a small cuddly toy.

I was a bit mealy-mouthed about the piece first time round, but for all its deficiencies - a couple of the marginal characters are cyphers or caricatures - this sounds like a timely and heartfelt comedy of misunderstanding, not to say breakdown, between the generations.

And it stars Tamsin Greig in glorious form as Hilary, a middle-class 50 year-old literacy support unit worker who is losing her job, and her mind, as her monstrous micro-skirted teenage daughter Tilly (brilliant, moon-faced Bel Powley) flops through her GCSEs while staying out late and shouting a lot. And then shouting a lot more.

Then there's the fabulous Doon Mackichan as Frances, Hilary's best friend and drinking chum, an actress whose all too obvious availability for a David Hare play has rendered her unavailable. So she's working on a bondage "pony dance" cabaret spot, a sort of "whore horse" whom she trots out hilariously, complete with whip, mane and large black balloon, at the weekend chillaxing opportunity in Norfolk.

The other best-written character is Richard Lintern's Roland, Tilly's boyfriend's dad, a flirtatious actor in a dead (he says) marriage who captures with almost-too-painful-to-watch accuracy the squirming self-absorption and bombastic exterior of the insecure thespian ("I'm an actor; I've been horribly busy!").

The mother/daughter chasm is best shown in the scene where Hilary reminisces about the excitement of Greenham Common days; this isn't just a bit of false nostalgia, it's a plea for the next generation to care about something, anything, beyond their stupid little world of sex and texting, and to read something, anything, beyond a tweet.

Feminism, she says, died out with bus conductors. Under the cloak of flippancy, De Angelis is saying a lot that is serious, but the play is also delightfully entertaining, more so on a second viewing, and Lizzie Clachan's clean-cut, brightly lit (by Peter Mumford) design of grey panels in posh Walthamstow and sea-lapped Norfolk is a classic.

Ewan Stewart as Hilary's blinkered husband (he works in blinds) and Seline Hizli as Tilly's pregnant friend repeat their good work with minimal means. Newcomers to the cast - Amanda Root as Roland's ferocious banker wife, and Ben Lloyd-Hughes as a floppy, assured university student, and instrument of temporary salvation - do just fine. And check out the dozy bad boy Josh (James Musgrave): he wears long shorts falling down his bum but over his underpants.

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