Every now and again, there is a piece of theatre that comes about, rekindles that fire inside you as to why you love theatre, giving you tension, humour, raw unforced emotion, and giving you a full workout of all the senses. Christopher Adams’s ‘Tumulus’ is one of those exquisite rare breeds of a play, being one of the strongest three handers I’ve ever seen, with two of the three playing nearly 40 characters between them.
Tumulus is essentially the modern day murder mystery based on a true story, following Anthony as he tries to uncover the truth when a one night stand winds up dead on Hampstead Heath, presumed casualty of the London chem sex scene, whilst battling his own addictions.
All I can really say is hats off to Christopher Adams - the writing is truly exceptional. The whole piece flows fantastically and whilst it is tackling a dark subject matter, it is still very funny with it. My most notable line was from Jack, stating ‘The sex was like being hit by a bus, a really happy bus’.
The team that came together to create this beautiful piece is a true tour de force, and each creative complementing each other to perfection. Matt Steinberg’s direction was masterful, working the stage to its maximum capacity and never leaving it empty. It was a visual spectacle watching the actors perform the physically demanding show, and hitting the positions with such incredible finesse, picking out object after object from Alison Neighbour’s deceptively complex design. Christopher Nairne’s lighting design was superb, especially with the detail of the strobes and torches, bringing bright contrasts that highlight the action. However for me personally the absolute cream of the crop was Nick Manning’s masterclass of sound design. The attention to detail and complexity was jaw dropping, and mixed with the Foley effects performed live send my heart racing on multiple occasions.
Ian Hollard and Harry Lister Smith make an exceptional ensemble, committing to multiple characters effortlessly, with Lister Smith bringing some beautiful vulnerable moments especially as Jack, and Hollard was a joy to watch, switching between sinister and comedy effortlessly. Ciarán Owens leads as Anthony exceptionally, delivering an honest and raw production, never forcing anything and captivating to watch.
If I was being picky, the only thing that I wasn’t sure about was when the
intensity and slickness deliberately broke for outside of the story reasons, which took me out of the fast pace and exciting world created. Such a moment was the break of Foley in ‘I open the door to the ground floor flat’, and when Anthony addresses his outfit in the police station.
However these do not at all detract from such an exceptional piece of work, which moved me greatly, to the point that even after the show I was deeply affected. This play is truly exceptional theatre and honestly, drop what you are doing and book to see this. Now.
Review by Adam Yorke
Seat: n/a | Price of Ticket: £16-21 – depends on the day
Photos by Darren Bell