Jump @ Peacock Theatre, London

cast list
Young-Sub Jin
Ji-Eun Kim
Han Chang Lim
Hee-Jeong Hwang
Tae Hun Kim
Cheol-Mu Kim
Min-Ho You
Hyo-Sang Yun
Woon-Yong Lee

directed by
Jun Sang Lee
Returning to London for another run, after gaining glowing, superlative laden reviews last year, this Korean show is quite unlike anything else on in the West End at the moment.

Jump combines broad physical comedy with spectacular martial arts expertise. On paper it doesn’t sound that promising, a near wordless mix of pratfalls and backflips, but despite an almost complete lack of plot, it manages to be a consistently entertaining couple of hours: funny, good natured and occasionally quite inspired.

Massively popular in its native country where it’s been touring for years, Jump features a family of martial arts masters (in fact the piece was originally saddled with the pleasingly does-what-it-says-on-the-tin title of Crazy family). Dad’s a dab hand with a weapon, mum can break wooden planks with her bare hands, even granddad isn’t someone you’d want to get on the wrong side of. The track-suited uncle with his shaggy Jackie Chan hair do and fondness for the bottle, can still fight off three assailants without breaking a sweat, and the daughter’s young suitor undergoes a Clark Kent like transformation, from tongue-tied nerd to Bruce Lee-alike love God, every time he takes of his glasses.

The story, such as it is, involves two goofy burglars who make the huge mistake of breaking into the family’s house one night. The ensuing showdown is quite dazzlingly choreographed, referencing everything from Kung Fu Hustle to the silent era classics of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. The show culminates with a hilarious slow-motion spin on The Matrix that recreates on stage what it took the Wachowski Brothers millions of dollars in CGI to manage on screen.

Packed with slapstick and broad cartoonish humour, Jump has a truly wide appeal. The cast all highly trained in Tae Kwon Do and gymnastics make their amazing stunts look almost effortless, flipping and tumbling, kicking and sparring. When the frail little stage manager who orchestrates the action totters across the stage you just know he’ll be spinning through the air and turning hand-springs before the show is over.

Dialogue is kept to the absolute minimum and instead the show relies on some faintly cheesy backing music and a kow-ka-blam soundtrack of thwacks, swishes and thuds, which heightens the feeling of watching a curious live action cartoon.

This is a great family production, simple but highly effective; it’s also the ideal show to which to take a theatre-phobic date. Just watch out if you have an aisle seat and you’re at all ambivalent about the idea of audience participation.

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