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A CurtainUp LondonLondon Review

And Now Jumpers has Jumped Across the Ocean
By Elyse Sommer

David Leveux's drop dead staging of Tom Stoppard's 1972 farce has jumped to Broadway. How smoothly has it landed? Very smoothly indeed.

The roly poly Simon Russell Beale holds forth as delightfully as he did in London, as memorable a failure as I've seen in a long time. Essie Davis as Dorothy is as gorgeously enigmatic as ever, whether ensconced on a curtained bed or high up on moon during the more surreal scenes. Nothing but good things to say about the supporting cast. Nicky Henson is the perfect pragmatic counterpoint to Beale's blind to reality philosopher. Eliza Lumley is a master class in nonverbal acting (except for one burst of laughter, she doesn't utter a word).

I can't compare the yellow-clad American Jumpers to the athletic Brits Lizzie Loveridge and Brian Clover saw. Suffice it to say that they do their jumps with graceful assurance.

As the show moved without a missed beat from one London venue to another, so it is a fine fit for the Brooks Atkinson. The scintillating revolving set is full of spectacular details -- my favorite being the bookcase in George's office metamorphosing into a courtroom bench. Speaking of favorites, Stoppard's scripts always tempt you to quote at least a few: George's "atheism is a sort of crutch for those who can't bear the reality of God" or Archie's cynically upbeat "many are happy much of the time; more eat than starve, more are healthy than sick, more curable than dying, no so many dying as dead. . ." There are also the hilarious exchanges as when Archie in responds to George's puzzlement over the announcement that McFee shot himself in a plastic bag with "It's hard to say. He was always tidy."

Still, as entertainingly staged and verbally challenging as Jumpers is, Brian and Lizzie's points about the play's shortcomings are well taken. These caveats aside, Stoppard fans will not want to miss this production.

The Broadway Production Notes
As you can see, everything's the same, except the venue, performance details and an American cast to play the titular jumpers. JUMPERS
Author: Tom Stopppard
Director: David Leveux Cast: Simon Russell Beale as George and Essie Davis as Dorothy; Nicky Henson as Archie, Eliza Lumley as Secretary, John Rogan as Crouch, Nicholas Woodeson as Bones
The Jumpers: Michael Arnold, Andrew Asnes, Clark Scott Carmichael, Tom Hildebrand, Michael Hollick (Greystoke), Don Johanson, Joseph P. McDonnell, Hillel Meltzer (McFee).
Set Designer: Vicki Mortimer
Costume Designer: Nicky Gillibrand
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Sound: John Leonard for Aura
Music: Corin Buckeridge
Choreography: Aidan Treays
Video Design: Dick Straker & Sven Ortel for Mesmer
Jumpers Trio: Tim Weil, conductor/keyborad; James Saporito, drums; Dick Sarpola, bass
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one intermission
BROOKS ATKINSON, 256 W. 47th St., 212-307-7171
Twenty week run begins 4/06/04 to 7/11/04;opening 4/25/04 Tues through Sat @ 8pm, with matinees Wed & Sat @2pm and Sunday @3pm
Review based on April 29th performance

Jumpers Transfers to the Piccadilly and We Take a Second Look
By Brian Clover

Tom Stoppard was at the Piccadilly Theatre to see the transferred production of Jumpers. Eerily, like Dorian Gray, he seems unchanged by the years. Good for him, but how well are his plays lasting? Like my esteemed colleague I have doubts about Jumpers. A critic* has accused Stoppard's writing of being "indefatigably facetious". This is cruel, but fair comment on Jumpers which, with its eclectic blend of satire, melodrama, philosophy, cabaret and vaudeville, gives Stoppard free rein to indulge this weakness. However, luckily for all concerned, the National Theatre's team gives us a Rolls Royce of a revival. But is it enough?

During the first act the audience laughs genuinely, then gamely, then politely, then not much at all, as philosopher George drowns in his own god-bothering verbiage while wife Dottie has yet another nervous breakdown. This is a nice idea here, a professional logician who cannot decide if his wife is really having an affair, or see the evidence pointing to a murder right under his nose. But the concept runs away as if drafted by George Bernard Shaw and the Monty Python team on amphetamines. The verbal gags come thick and fast and challenging, delivered by Simon Russell Beale as George, with tremendous verve. But with anything less than tremendous verve the play would sink under its own weight. Sometimes Stoppard, like Alan Bennett in Kafka's Dick, a similar piece of tortoise-obsessed surrealism, seems to be emptying out all the aphorisms in his notebook rather than writing.

The second act works at a better pace and gels as a piece of theatre though not as drama, since the issues raised in the first half, both human and abstract, remain unresolved. Perhaps it was Stoppard's intention in 1972 to write an anti-play blending the Absurd school with Brechtian alienation, but the outcome is curiously dated. The fascination with detectives, astronauts, dons, vice chancellors, archbishops and doormen is very British and very much of its time, as is the Joe Orton-ish kinkiness and experimentalist stagecraft. In his programme notes Stoppard avers that audiences aren't remotely concerned with such matters as the consistent use of doors. He's wrong here: at one point a menacing troupe of acrobats whisks poor Inspector Bones out through a door but, since this exit has already been used for quite different purposes, it's not clear whether they mean to kill him in the park or wash him in the bath.

But in all other respects the production is exemplary with fine musical numbers and acrobatics and there are lots of laughs to be had, though ironically the biggest laugh of the night is for a poignant piece of slapstick. Fans of Simon Russell Beale will be delighted, though he is not entirely matched by Essie Davis's Dottie or Nicky Henson's arch Archie, though Russell Beale and Davis do give their first big scene a touching degree of tenderness that works against the rest of the play. John Rogan as Crouch, the humble doorman who turns out to be far brighter than his betters, nearly steals the show. Vicki Mortimer's stunning set alone is, as they say, worth the price of admission.

Jumpers may have a turning point for Stoppard himself since after this his drama changed direction. I don't want to be mean, and I'm only guessing here, but it may turn out that this play's lasting achievement was to inspire Dennis Potter to use song and dance in his Pennies from Heaven of 1977.

*And that stern critic? Stoppard himself, of course.

Written by Tom Stoppard
Directed by David Leveaux
Starring: Simon Russell Beale
With: Essie Davis, Eliza Lumley, John Rogan, Nicky Henson, Nicholas Woodeson, Jean-Felix Callens, Jonathan Campbell, Gary Cross, Kaj Fitzgibbon, Leo Kay, Karl Magee, Dodger Phillips, Phil Seaman, Ashley Stuart, Lewis Young, Joseph J Leigh
Set Designer: Vicki Mortimer
Costume Designer: Nicky Gillibrand
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Sound: John Leonard for Aura
Music: Corin Buckeridge
Choreography: Aidan Treays
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one interval .
Box Office: 0870 060 6630
Call the Box Office ask for the "Jumpers Voucher Offer". From 14th November to 31 January 2004 top price seats (not Saturday evenings) will be  a saving of . Maximum tickets per booking.
Booking to 6th March 2004
Re-reviewed by Brian Clover on 20th November 2003 Performance at the Piccadilly Theatre, Denman Street, London W1 (Tube: Piccadilly)

--- The Original Review by Lizzie Loveridge

. . . that though an arrow is always approaching its target, it never gets there, and Saint Sebastian died of fright
--- George
Tom Stoppard's 1970s comedy Jumpers makes a re-appearance at the National Theatre where it was last seen almost thirty years ago. Whilst Jumpers is a comedy with the usual string of brilliant Stoppardian witticisms and clever observations, it is quite difficult to follow as an integrated whole. Some of the fascination for Stoppard acolytes will be tracing the ideas that appear in later, and sometimes earlier plays, the philosophical basis, academics, the actress wife, the inspector, the juxtaposition of the high flown and the mundane, and the surreal.

When Peter Wood, the original director of Jumpers at the National asked Stoppard what the play was about, Stoppard replied in Beckettian mode, "It's about a man writing a lecture". What this omits is that the academic's actress wife, who may be completely off her rocker, has concealed the body of her lover, a dead academic disguised as one of a troupe of acrobats in her bedroom wardrobe. So while moral philosopher George Moore (Simon Russell Beale), saddled with the same name as the author of Principia Ethica, grapples with the ideas he wishes to put across in his lecture, he seems almost oblivious to the chaos of his personal situation. His marriage to the aptly named Dottie (Essie Davis) is disintegrating in a dramatic procession of improbable incidents and caricature participants.

Did I like it? Not really, although of course I laughed at Stoppard's mental exercises. I was worried that I hadn't understood Jumpers. Reading the play as text is difficult in places because of the interjection of the numerous and bizarre stage directions which are hard to visualise when you haven't seen them and harder to interpret when you have. I am not overly fond of farce as genre and Jumpers is a comic farce with intellectual asides.

However I really appreciated Simon Russell Beale's wonderful performance as the crumpled George, the second rate academic who is wondering about the existence of God or Gods, a God of Creation and a God of Goodness as he dictates his lecture to his prim, efficient secretary (Eliza Lumley). His obvious pleasure at a well turned phrase or an apposite analogy is childlike and charming. As he revises how to phrase his relationship to the great Bertrand Russell, he adjusts his posture to show escalating delight with each textual revision. Essie Davis has the difficult role of Dottie whose heights of excess require her to sing, dance and strip off. Jonathan Hyde is Archie, the slimy, self-satisfied Vice Chancellor whose academic ambition outweighs his moral principle. " McFee suffering from nervous strain . . . wandered into the park where he crawled into a large plastic bag and shot himself." He is all disciplines to all men and crosses professional lines as Dottie' psychotherapist and probably her lover. Nicholas Woodeson is the stolid Bones, detective, a forerunner for the Real Inspector Hound, whose pedantic investigative method is thrown when faced with the anarchic Moore household.

The set is a series of lit concentric circles with the moon in the centre. George works in his shambolic study, Dottie entertains in her extravagant boudoir, the wall paper everywhere is a depiction of the Milky Way. David Leveaux's production has elicited some very good performances and the acrobatic troupe of yellow clothed "philosophical" gymnasts are well choreographed. It is Simon Russell Beale that one will remember as he grapples with philosophy, more comfortable in the world of ideas than with practicalities of a painful marriage to a woman with psychiatric problems.

Editor's Note: Stoppard fans may wish to check out our Stoppard Page which includes links to other of his plays reviewed.

Written by Tom Stoppard
Directed by David Leveaux

Starring: Simon Russell Beale
With: Essie Davis, Eliza Lumley, John Rogan, Jonathan Hyde, Nicholas Woodeson, Robert Barton, Jean-Felix Callens, Jonathan Campbell, Gary Cross, Leo Kay, Karl Magee, Dodger Phillips, Phil Seaman, Ashley Stuart, Lewis Young, Supple, Joseph J Leigh
Set Designer: Vicki Mortimer
Costume Designer: Nicky Gillibrand
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Sound: John Leonard for Aura
Music: Corin Buckeridge
Choreography: Aidan Treays
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one interval .
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
Booking to 9th September 2003 but in repertory with Jerry Springer and The Three Sisters
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th July 2003 Performance at the Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, Upper Ground London SE1 (Tube/Rail Station: Waterloo)

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