Pauline Knowles

Jumpy

29/10/16

Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Jumpy is a cracker of a show, at once funny and appalling, familiar and uncomfortable. It’s an episodic tale, a series of vignettes that combine to give a frank and detailed examination of a middle-class family life.

Primarily, this is the tale of Hilary and Tilly, a  mother and daughter struggling with their relationship. Hilary (Pauline Knowles) has just turned fifty, her marriage is stale and she’s about to lose her job. She’s in the habit of pouring a glass of wine as soon as she sets foot inside her home, and she’s frustrated by the way her daughter dismisses her. Tilly (Molly Vevers) is a truculent young woman, happy when she’s with her friends and angry with Hilary. Her anger isn’t specific – Hilary has done nothing wrong – it’s more of a howl against the world, where a fifteen-year-old can’t quite be free. She’s tugging at the apron strings, but of course still needs her mum.

Make no mistake, at its core this is a comedy, and the teenage angst is played for laughs. The way Vevers tuts and scowls and contorts her body stays just the right side of parody: this is adolescence writ large – played for humour but with enough realism to keep us all on side. And while Knowles’ portrayal of Hilary is touchingly vulnerable – she really seems to ache with the difficulty of it all – it’s still funny, in a wry, sardonic way.

There’s a great supporting cast too, most notably Gail Watson as Frances, whose burlesque routine is as impressive as it is hilarious, and Richard Conlon as Roland, the spineless cad who can’t see beyond his own shallow needs. And Stephen McCole’s Mark makes an interesting counterpoint, straight man to the comedians, the solid centre at the heart of Hilary’s life.

It’s brutal in places; it’ll make you question and evaluate the relationships you have with other people, the world, with politics (and wine). But that’s all to the good. April De Angelis’s play is definitely one to see. So get yourself a ticket, and catch it while you can.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield

 

 

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

20/12/15

The Lyceum, Edinburgh

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a well-loved and familiar tale with a guest spot for Santa Claus; no wonder it’s become a staple family Christmas show. And the Lyceum’s production starts off wonderfully; the design (by Becky Minto) is breathtaking: the all-important transition from Britain to Narnia eliciting an audible response from the audience.

The parallels between the two worlds (and Narnia’s appeal) are highlighted by the double casting: both places are being torn apart by war but, while in the real world the children are bystanders, exiled from their home with no option but to wait things out, in Narnia they play an active role; they are no longer helpless children, sidelined and ignored.

It’s a shame, then, that some elements of the play seem almost perfunctory. Peter’s battle with Maugrim, for example, lacks any real sense of menace. Some scenes, most notably Aslan’s murder – but there are others too – are crying out for a chorus: ‘Come, every spirit, every wraith,’ chants the White Witch, played with wonderful malevolence by Pauline Knowles. But no one comes, or hardly anyone: three makes for a very sparse crowd. In Manchester, student choruses seem quite the thing; we’ve seen actors-in-training from local universities employed in several professional productions there and this might have been an idea here. The Lyceum’s Narnia would be more convincing if it were more densely populated.

The children’s delivery is a bit stage-school and declamatory for my taste; they’re not actually kids, of course, but young adults, which might account for the vocal tics as they try to make themselves sound more youthful. And I wish that Aslan were more than just a man in a fur suit.

That said, it’s still a magical show in places, with spark and vim enough to keep a young audience entranced. The final battle scene is beautifully done, all lights and ribbons and roaring sound effects. At its best, this play is very good indeed. It’s just a bit uneven, I suppose.

3 stars

Susan Singfield