The young and the restless

Rima Te Wiata (right) and Lauren Gibson star in the Fortune Theatre's production of Jumpy. Photo...
Rima Te Wiata (right) and Lauren Gibson star in the Fortune Theatre's production of Jumpy. Photo by Craig Baxter.

Few of us end up as we thought we might when we were young, something the Fortune Theatre's upcoming production of Jumpy explores with great humour. Charmian Smith reports.

When the cast of Jumpy read through the play for the first time, they all felt they'd had some of the conversations before, either with their own parents or with their children, says director Shane Bosher. Artistic director of Silo Theatre in Auckland for 13 years, he has recently spread his wings to go freelance and is in Dunedin directing Jumpy for the Fortune Theatre.

Written by British playwright April de Angelis, Jumpy is about the relationship between 50-year old Hilary and her truculent, sexually precocious teenage daughter, Tilly.

''So many plays which feature women are about their relationship with men or they are feeds to the male experience but in this the central relationship is between Hilary and Tilly,'' he said.

He finds it refreshing because although most theatre ticket-buyers are women, plays are often about the experiences of white middle-class men.

''To me it feels like a very authentic articulation of the clash between generations. I find Hilary's journey through the play unexpected, surprising and so really exciting. It's a great role for Rima [Te Wiata] and I'm excited about the fact that it's a play in which the women drive it forward.''

When he first talked to Fortune Theatre artistic director Lara Macgregor about the play, Te Wiata's name came immediately to mind for the lead role.

It needs a storyteller who can hold the show, has a ferocious mind and who can deftly navigate between comedy and drama, he said.

In her early 20s, Hilary joined the women protesting against nuclear missiles at Greenham Common, but at 50 she finds herself leagues away from what she thought her life was going to be and worried about her job with a reading and literacy programme in the face of government funding cuts during the recession. The play is also about the relationship we have with who we intended to be and what we actually become, Bosher said.

She married Mark, at the time a provocative art student but who now sells blinds. Not only is she turning 50 but she feels she's considered redundant by the rest of the world.

''It all sounds very bleak but it's wonderfully funny. It's certainly a comedy before a drama,'' he said.

''It mines the suburban neurosis of early Alan Ayckbourn but in a really contemporary way so it works with a whole lot of extraordinary discomfort with people.''

Fifteen-year-old daughter Tilly is trying to assert herself in the world as an adult without the skills to do that yet.

''She goes through this extraordinary journey where she wears tight skirts and massive high heels and is going out there trying to assert adulthood through liberating herself sexually. She has several boyfriends across the play and her best friend Lindsey is 15 and pregnant: a 15-year-old going on 30 but without the maturity for that.

''Hilary the mother is trying to keep her where she is and/or operate as her best friend. It's about the rub of all those things in a world where sexuality is so incredibly liberated. Hilary's relationship with her husband is fractured and fatigued and has settled into patterns,'' he said.

''There's a blisteringly funny scene where they are getting ready for bed and Hilary starts reading Great Expectations aloud to him, which is very clearly a sticking plaster for the lack of physical intimacy in their lives.''

Bosher particularly enjoys working with contemporary plays like Jumpy.

''While I've directed a number of classics, I'd say my passion is for articulating the contemporary experience. I think theatre very strongly has a responsibility to work through what we are experiencing in the world and our obligation is to provide audiences with experiences where they can riff around what their experience is in the world and can shift and change as a result.''

Macgregor said she scheduled Jumpy because the large cast of nine would provide a great energy in the building and as the play mixes two generations with great insight, it would appeal to the wide variety of ages present over the Fortune's 40th anniversary celebrations from July 18-20. She also wanted a strong contemporary female playwright in the season and plays with strong viewpoints from differing generations are fascinatingly funny, she said.

- Lauren Gibson was incorrectly identified in a caption that ran with an advertising feature in Tuesday's paper.

See it
Jumpy, by April de Angelis and directed by Shane Bosher, opens at the Fortune Theatre on July 5 and runs until August 2. It features Rima Te Wiata as Hilary, Lauren Gibson as Tilly, as well as Stephen Butterworth, Hilary Halba, Nathan Mudge, Jon Pheloung, Barbara Power, Jordon Selwyn and Priyanka Xi.

At 12.30pm today the cast will perform an excerpt from Jumpy in Dunedin Public Library, Moray Pl, as part of the ''Lunchtime Bites'' series.


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