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Jumpers, Tabard Theatre

Tom Stoppard
Directed by Madeleine Loftin

Pros: Outstanding script, some cracking performances and strong production values.

Cons: A couple of slip-ups here and there, but nothing that won’t get fixed as the run progresses.

Our Verdict: Buy your tickets now, you won’t regret it!

Courtesy of the Tabard Theatre

As an ex-West Londoner, I always used to feel a certain sense of regret at never having ventured to the Tabard Theatre. Situated around the corner from Turnham Green station (and I mean literally twenty-five seconds walk), it boasts a fantastic studio space above a delightful pub; this venue is well worth a detour! On this occasion, we were treated to a show written by one of Britain’s finest playwrights, and despite a few teething issues in this ambitious production, we were not disappointed.

Tom Stoppard should hardly need an introduction, although sadly I still meet theatre-goers who raise an eyebrow. He is, of course, the man behind such masterpieces as Travesties and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. More recently, his screenplay of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has been made into a Hollywood blockbuster fronted by Jude Law and Kiera Knightley. Stoppard is a true wordsmith, and his razor-sharp wit pervades every play he writes. One consequence of this, I have found, is that every time I leave a production of one of his plays, my mind is racing. Jumpers, although less well known that some of his other works, displays all of his trademarks. The plot is by no means simple: the farce is based around a murder mystery, where almost all of the protagonists are both members of a university Philosophy department and semi-professional gymnasts. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of the story, as it is fairly convoluted, but suffice it to say that this is a script of the highest possible quality – funny, intelligent, witty and thought-provoking.

The trouble with Stoppard is that to really do justice to the script, the delivery must be impeccable. Unfortunately, there were a couple of false starts and slips which, in the first half, impeded the natural wittiness of the play. To be fair, I do think these were just minor teething issues, and that as the run progresses the cast will eventually deliver a seamless production. There were some cracking performances to enjoy. For me, the star performance was given by Malcolm Freeman as Archie Jumper, the eccentric, manipulative and sly Professor of Philosophy / Psychiatrist / Lawyer / Gymnast / Coroner. His appearance in the second half of the show injected new and infectious energy into the production, and his delivery of Stoppard’s lines was superb. On more than one occasion, I found myself in hysterics at his quips. Other great performances come from Toby Eddington, Emily Shaw and Mike White, who each had brilliant moments in the show.

The production values of the show can’t be faulted either – a clever, multifunctional set draped in yellow, with carefully chosen props and costumes to match. There was also some clever use of screens to show one of the elements of the plot, a botched moon-landing leaving an astronaut stranded. Hats off to Chris Hone and his design team for this.

All in all, Jumpers is a well thought-out production of an excellent script. There are some elements of it which need oiling for it to reach its full potential, but this will happen naturally during the run. If nothing else, Jumpers is a show which you will be discussing for hours after leaving the auditorium, and for that reason alone you should head to the Tabard to enjoy it.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments in the section below!

Jumpers runs at the Tabard Theatre until the 30th September 2012. 
Box Office: 0208 995 6035 or book online at http://www.tabardtheatre.co.uk/

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