Jump

Originally conceived and written by the Yegam Theatre Company
Peacock Theatre
(2007)

Production photo

Imagine an evening where acrobatics and martial arts meld seamlessly with comedy, mime and dance and you have the thoroughly engaging romp that is Jump.

Originally called Crazy Family, Jump, performed by the Korean company Yegam, was several years in development before it premiered in Seoul in 2002. It has since toured internationally, taking a Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006. This is its second run at the Peacock.

It is supposedly the story of a typical Korean family whose agility and top martial arts skills give a whole new slant on family skirmishes. Instead of yelling and throwing plates at each other during a row, this family tends to break ceramic tiles over other members' heads, while Grandfather employs his own method of controlling his sons which involves using his walking stick in a rather painful fashion!

The show actually starts in the auditorium before the curtain goes up when the mysterious cast member, known only as the Old Man (Woon-Yong Lee) wanders into the audience, pinches someone's seat and forces him to sit in the aisle. He plays the part of the stage manager, and enlists various audience members to lift him up on stage so that the show can begin (he is in reality a champion gymnast as his subsequent back-flips testify).

And the audience participation doesn't end there. A city-type in a suit was inveigled up on stage to try some gymnastic moves (which to give him his due, he does attempt) while a female audience member risked coming between Father (Young-Sub Jin) and Mother (Ji-Eun Kim) though it is engineered that she manages to knock out Mother before Mother does her any serious damage.

The plot is thin enough but this hardly matters. The first act serves to introduce the characters and their particular quirks and is given over to an ominous training regime supervised by the exacting Grandfather (Hyo-Sang Yun). Grandfather cracks the whip, sword, pole or whatever he has handy to keep his off-spring in line. Singled out for particular admonishment is the humorous 'Drunken Uncle' (Han-Chang Lim) who has triceps that even Rafael Nadal would envy.

Naturally the tae kwon do (art of punching and kicking) and acrobatics were fast and furious, as the actors were trained by Oak Soo Chung, the Korean Women's National Gymnastics Coach. The choreography was slick and polished and the timing of the entire troop could not be faulted.

The whole concept was a cross between the antics of the Keystone Cops and the 1970s sitcom Happy Days with a bit of I love Lucy thrown in (Mother bore a passing resemblance to Lucille Ball in both looks and comic manner). The comedy was heightened by the sound effects of whistles, bells and knocks which enhanced the fight sequences. But despite the ceaseless energy and much fighting, the softer moments were also well played out such as when Son-in- law (Tae-Hun Kim) and Daughter (Hee-Jeong Hwang) were trying to share a passionate moment, despite repeated interruptions from Drunken Uncle and Grandfather.

A pair of hapless burglars (Min-Ho You and Cheol-Mu Kim) crank up the pace and the comedy antics in Act 2 as the show eases into more farce and slapstick. Jump is a show that can be enjoyed by the whole family and at less than two hours doesn't overstretch itself. A word of warning - if you don't want the possibility of going on stage, don't sit at the front!

Jackie Fletcher reviewed "Jump" at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe and Wayne Miller at the 2006 Fringe

Reviewer: Bronagh Taggart