Thursday, July 03, 2003
It was astronauts and academics, show-tunes and tortoises down the National last night for a revival of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers. Set in a gone-gaga academia at the time of the Moon landings, the play's all about philosopher George's attempt to prove God's existence, and to establish a famous paradox by setting up a race between a tortoise and a hare. At the same time, he also has to deal with his nympho cabaret-singer wife and the amoral vice-chancellor, as well as the murder of a fellow professor. Honest, it's heaps more fun than it sounds.
In fact, it's classic early Stoppard, with a nod to Joe Orton and even Brian Rix, Tom as mental gymnast, flexing his linguistic, satirical and intellectual muscles. It comes from the time (1972) when Stoppard was actually funny, way before he discovered lurrve and Felicity Kendall; or explored the ploddingly political Big Ideas in his recent Coast of Utopia trilogy, adored by Joe Critic, but for me the theatrical equivalent of a drip-feed of mogadon.
Although Jumpers isn't part of the National's ten-quid-a-show scheme, you can still get decent seats for a tenner. Go and see it if you can: it's worth it just for Simon Russell-Beale as the bumbling, spluttering George, a national treasure of an actor if ever there was one. Epistemology has never before been such a laugh.