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REVIEW: Jumping Puddles

3rd March 2015

To mark International Women’s Day, Northumbria University’s Gender and Society Research Hub (GSRH) hosted Open Clasp theatre company’s new play Jumping Puddles. The play - a collaboration with Frantic Assembly - aims to shine a spotlight on the issues faced by real women and girls in today’s society. Issues like those raised in the play are a key feature of the GSRH’s research around the theme of gender and equality. Northumbria Journalism and English Literature graduate, Rosie Willan, shares her views on the performance.

 

If I had to describe Jumping Puddles in one word, it would be authentic.

It was no surprise, then, to learn that the play was informed by the real lives and experiences of 162 young women from Newcastle and Liverpool. Writer Catrina McHugh, a Northumbria University graduate, met with these women in consultation sessions and used their stories as a basis for the script. The result is an honest, thought-provoking play with truly relatable characters. 

Jumping Puddles tells the story of troubled sisters Anna and Grace as they struggle to come to terms with their mother’s serious illness. The girls are also battling with their own issues – Anna questions her sexuality and becomes the victim of relentless school bullies, while Grace struggles to break away from an abusive relationship with an incarcerated ex-boyfriend. They are growing up fast and growing apart faster. 

This gulf between Anna and Grace at the beginning of the play is expertly conveyed through their movements in the opening scene - the first signs of Frantic Assembly’s creative input. Before a word is spoken on stage, the girl’s weave around each other, holding up labeled cardboard boxes which make up much of the set. These props highlight the instability of their situation which is driven home by the constant fear that Social Services will come and take Anna away.

Despite the serious and sometimes harrowing subject matter, Jumping Puddles has some laugh out loud moments which offer much-needed comic relief. The young cast – Lauren Kellegher (Anna), Molly Roberts (Grace), Maria Crocker (Kim) and Paislie Reid (Chloe) – move seamlessly between serious scenes and comedy, all whilst keeping up with the production’s physical demands.

The final scene is particularly moving, as Anna and Grace – now brought together in bereavement – relive some of the carefree moments of their childhood. The open-ending could have left the audience unsatisfied, but instead serves as a reminder that this is a snapshot of a real life situation. The refusal to provide a happy ever after only adds to the play’s authenticity. With Jumping Puddles, Open Clasp have undoubtedly achieved their goal of giving real marginalized women a voice.

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