I picked this up from a library book sale. Jumpers is the first play Tom Stoppard put out after Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and even though the persnickety toffs of Concord MA apparently didn’t check it out very often, I thought it showed some promise. The back cover copy is of the “can you believe how wacky” genre, like, “British astronauts are scrapping with each other on the moon, and spritely academics steal about London by night indulging in murderous gymnastics!” If you are familiar with this genre you will know the “! lolol” is heavily implied.
Also Diana Rigg was in the original cast, playing Dotty, a retired showgirl who is going … dotty (! lolol).
Also I am falling behind pace and plays take two hours to read.
I will now share with you the first moment that made me say hm, which comes in the cast list aka before the play even starts.
The SECRETARY is young and attractive but poker-faced, almost grim, even on her first appearance, in which she appears as a stripper.
We return later to this lady as follows, in a stage direction in the middle of a SIX-PAGE MONOLOGUE by a moral philosopher:
The SECRETARY, unruffled, waits patiently, her pencil is poised. (It may as well be stated now that she never speaks.)
The moral philosopher who gets to go on and on and on and on is a dude of course, while the secretary variously disrobes and sits onstage line-less the whole play wondering “does this part even qualify me for Actors’ Equity?”
I dunno, I tend to be under-sensitive if anything to this kind of casually sexist/racist crap in older works … hell PG Wodehouse is one of my favorite authors, and he’s problematic as balls … but I found it downright distracting in this play.
The whole thing is also so self-conscious, and I mean that in an “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it” kind of way … like I might find it charming in another work that a policeman gets offered an academic chair in the philosophy department as a bribe, but I am somehow not charmed here.
This book is written by someone clever and well-educated, and it’s not deliberately offensive, but given that there are 25 million books in the Library of Congress I won’t recommend reading this one.