Reviewed by Tracy Hyman
Review Date: 20/03/15

Jumping Puddles

from Open Clasp Theatre in collaboration with Frantic Assembley

12th March 2015 @ ARC Stockton

Jumping Puddles is a thoughtful, moving and poignant piece of theatre. It is hard hitting at times, yet at others it is light hearted and funny. The play tells the story of two ordinary sisters, bickering and fighting as only sisters can. Yet below the surface their life is far from ordinary; their mam is ill in hospital and individually the sisters have their own problems that they must deal with.

The play has been created by Open Clasp in collaboration with Frantic Assembly, a physical theatre company. Open Clasp specialise in making theatre from a female perspective. They use collaborative methods to create very real, thought-provoking and inspiring theatre based on true stories and experiences. Jumping Puddles is the result of a project with 162 young women from marginalised communities in the North East and Liverpool; it gives these young women a voice, one that deserves to be heard.

An innovative set design, we meet the sisters as they are unpacking boxes in their home, moving boxes strewn across the set labelled bathroom, Grace’s room, kitchen, shoes. Then as the youngest, Anna, sets off to school we are transported with her as the bedroom is transformed into a classroom with the rolling up of duvets, the moving of chairs and the appearance of a projected clock. Here we see her struggles at home replaced with struggles with bullies, her sexuality and the pains of growing up. We see how social media both helps and hinders these struggles, informing Anna about topics such as waxing, yet leaving her open to attack at all times.

From the older sister Grace’s perspective we learn about the pressures of growing up, of having a boyfriend in prison, of going out clubbing underage using fake ID, getting drunk and being put in a vulnerable position which leads to being felt up by a guy in the club. We watch her struggle with the responsibility of looking after her sister whilst trying to maintain her freedom.

Throughout the story the portrayal of the individual characters is very strong and convincing. The cast of four play all the characters believably and we share their emotions as the story around the sisters develops. Drama is interspersed with choreographed movement, spoken dialogue with silence. Musical interludes enforce emotions where words are not needed, through expression and movement. The synchronicity of movements in some of the sequences is very strong and hypnotic, giving intensity and depth, particularly in the scenes involving the school bullies.

Jumping Puddles is a brilliant dramatisation which gives the audience an insight into the unseen fears, hardships and insecurities that are hidden from sight by many young women, even from those closest to them. It highlights strength of character and growth, and makes us think again about the people around us. Open Clasp theatre have given an important voice to the marginalised communities, successfully opening our eyes to the realities and hardships of life.