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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama



Jumpers

by
Tom Stoppard


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Jumpers



Title: Jumpers
Author: Tom Stoppard
Genre: Drama
Written: 1972
Length: 89 pages
Availability: Jumpers - US
Jumpers - UK
Jumpers - Canada
  • Jumpers was first performed at the Old Vic Theatre, London, on 2 February 1972, in a production directed by Peter Wood and starring Diana Rigg and Michael Hordern
  • Originally published in 1972, revised editions were published in 1973 and 1986; as usual, some of the revisions are significant (and each version apparently has a different coda)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : imaginative philosophical attempt

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph A+ 10/7/2003 Charles Spencer
Evening Standard . 3/2/1972 Milton Shulman
The Guardian . 20/6/2003 Michael Billington
The Guardian . 21/11/2003 Lyn Gardner
The Independent B+ 20/6/2003 Robert Hanks
The Independent . 25/11/2003 Paul Taylor
New York . 10/5/2004 John Simon
New York Post A 26/4/2004 Clive Barnes
The NY Times A 26/4/2004 Ben Brantley
The New Yorker . 3/5/2004 John Lahr
Sunday Times . 9/4/1972 A.J.Ayer
The Times . 3/2/1972 Irving Wardle
The Times . 22/11/2003 Ian Johns
TLS . 27/6/2003 Judith Flanders
USA Today B+ 25/4/2004 Elysa Gardner
The Washington Post . 9/1/2004 Peter Marks


  From the Reviews:
  • "Humanity and good sense are the foundations on which Stoppard constructs his apparently absurdist plays. In a comedy that includes the moon landings, a team of gymnastic philosophers, a fatal shooting, a detective who might have stepped from the pages of Agatha Christie, not to mention a hare called Thumper and a tortoise called Pat, Stoppard combines effervescent burlesque with moral urgency. The play is a sustained satire on the absurdities of academic philosophy, and in particular on relativism" - Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph

  • "I am struck by the fact that some its ideas have dated while its core of feeling remains intact. In short, it works far better as a comedy about marriage than moral disintegration. (...) Stoppard is a residualist romantic rather than a latterday Shavian; his play is best in tracing the collapse of a dysfunctional marriage and the incremental humiliation of its hero." - Michael Billington, The Guardian

  • "Tom Stoppard's 1972 play may not be logical -- except perhaps in its nightmarish Alice in Wonderland construction -- but it is positively enjoyable" - Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

  • "Although the play's theatrical razzle and fast-paced philosophical quibbling are impressive, what stays in the mind is the pathos of George's situation, and the faltering eloquence of his conviction of the reality of God. (...) The philosophy has worn less well. The kind of penny-plain, positivist approach to morality Stoppard resents has long been out of style." - Robert Hanks, The Independent

  • "Jumpers is sometimes said to be a philosophical farce, a genre that converts ideas into action with devastating yet conceptually clarifying consequences. (...) But in the best examples of the genre, the propensities of farce inextricably mesh with the habits of a particular way of thinking and produce mayhem (...) By contrast, there is a lamentable lack of momentum or coherence in Jumpers" - Paul Taylor, The Independent

  • "The trouble is that this three-level prestidigitation never achieves the desired interrelation. We get instead more or less cleverly excogitated, linguistically acrobatic flippancy, along with characters who bypass the heart and end up not mattering." - John Simon, New York

  • "Believe it or not, though, it's funny -- screamingly funny. Never mind the details. Just relax in your seat, think Monty Python -- and let the jokes pour over you in some cheerful semantic blur." - Clive Barnes, New York Post

  • "And a play often dismissed as too clever by half now registers clearly as a poignant acknowledgement of the limits of cleverness." - Ben Brantley, The New York Times

  • "Intellectual audacity and chaotic idiocy combine in Stoppardís particular showy farce form -- a pageant of contradiction that broadcasts his stoicism and provides heat in a cooling universe. (...) The play, whose only sure plot points are a murder and a moon landing, comes at you like a brainstorm, a surrealist whirlwind, which defies definition or easy comprehension. Itís as if Stoppard, a former drama critic who left school at seventeen, had fallen asleep over his books and dreamed up a new kind of autodidactic burlesque." - John Lahr, The New Yorker

  • "There's fun to be had in a first half stuffed with the Stoppardian whiz bangery of elegant sophistry, linguistic sleight of hand and absurd farce. But the intellectual fireworks seldom light up the play after the interval as various linguistic, moral and sexual confusions are unscrambled." - Ian Johns, The Times

  • "Jumpers (...) is the kind of gem that few playwrights other than Stoppard could have crafted: a freewheeling farce with a soulful, searing conscience -- not to mention elements of romantic intrigue, murder mystery and musical theater." - Elysa Gardner, USA Today

  • "(A)n intellectually rigorous comedy taking as its subject that sure-fire laugh-getter, moral relativism. Equal parts whodunit, slapstick romp and comedy of ideas, the 1972 play is among its author's most eccentric, challenging an audience with almost indecently luxurious punning and the notion that a 20th-century philosopher could expound on Thomas Aquinas and Bertrand Russell while enmeshed in a randy burlesque. (...) Not surprisingly, it's a mad jumble of a play; absurdly funny episodes alternate with some that are numbingly gabby." - Peter Marks, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Jumpers is an unusual acrobatic-philosophical play (with a touch of murder-mystery to it, and a good dose of politics as well). At the centre is an ill-paired couple, the appropriately named Dotty, a semi-famous former musical-comedy actress, and George Moore, a Professor of Moral Philosophy.
       The play begins with a party celebrating (more or less) the election victory of the Radical Liberal Party until late in the night. A troupe of jumpers -- "a mixture of the more philosophical members of the university gymnastics team and the more gymnastic members of the Philosophy School" -- perform, and one, Professor of Logic Duncan McFee, gets shot.
       George, meanwhile, is preparing what Dottie calls: "your stupid speech for your dreamland debating society" -- a response to a paper that was to have been given by McFee. George's ramblings as he tries to get his arguments in order go on at some length, philosophical speculation on God and good and morality. Largely oblivious to many of the goings-on around him (and mistaken in his understanding of much that he does observe), the play is an entertaining mix of conversations and thoughts overlapping -- murder investigation and philosophical speculation (among other things) neatly coming together.
       The play is full of word- (and thought-) play. Vice Chancellor Sir Archibald Jumper -- an impressive jack-of-all-trades -- is, from the beginning, the circus ringmaster. A moral relativist (keen to defend the faith), he stands in marked contrast to the absolutist George, and it's his manipulations that resolve most things that need resolving, including the murder investigation.
       Jumpers is a clever, cerebral play, and also staged effectively: from the farce of the dead body (not immediately disposed of) to the acrobats to the contrast of study, bedroom, and hall where the action moves back and forth -- as well as the fates of a hare and a tortoise and an astronaut -- Stoppard doesn't forget to entertain his audience. The philosophical approach is a more complicated matter, but also quite effectively done. The dramatisation of the issues isn't as adeptly handled as in, say, his later Arcadia, and the satire laid on a bit strong (so also in the dream-coda, the 1986 version of which even includes Tarzan swinging through), but it manages to be both thoughtful and entertaining enough.

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Links:

Jumpers: Reviews: Tom Stoppard: Other works by Tom Stoppard under review: Works about Tom Stoppard under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama under review

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About the Author:

       British dramatist Tom Stoppard, born in 1937, is author of such notable plays as Arcadia and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

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