BWW Review: TUMULUS, Soho Theatre
The corpse of a young man is found dead on the Tumulus on Hampstead Heath. Then, another one. Both are immediately linked to the city's chemsex scene but Anthony thinks something else is going on, so he sets off on a personal investigation that spans parties and intimacy in Christopher Adams' play.
Tumulus enjoyed a successful run at VAULT Festival earlier in the year and now lands in thrilling form at Soho Theatre. Directed by Matt Steinberg, the show is a captivating and highly atmospheric display of theatrical pretense. He plays with sounds and visuals, mic'ing the actors and having them embody a collection of characters, each meticulously crafted through voice distortion and changes in physicality and demeanour.
Ciarán Owens commands the stage as Anthony, leading with a self-assured presence marred only by his character's addiction. As he battles with the inherent nature of his actions while an array of people played by Ian Hallard and Harry Lister Smith inhabit his life. Guided by Natasha Harrison's movement direction, they haunt the space in a remarkable choreography moving furniture and using it to devise the live soundscape (designed by Nick Manning).
The journey of Adams' characters is one different from mere vengeance or vindication, having Anthony achieve a new understanding of himself and rethink what he stands for through a list of clues that in turn open a dark world onto the audience. Steinberg's beats fall in place exquisitely within the text, delivering a determined and dynamic show that's compelling on all dimensions.
Adams creates a piece that manages to be a thriller without forsaking the lighter mood shown at the start. His characters are witty and quick, alternating tongue-in-cheek comebacks with deeper reflections on physical contact, connection, and the urgent need to go beyond these thresholds.
Anthony's long internal monologue hides a quest to reach universal redemption through his own struggles. All the while, Tumulus uncovers London's underworld and the fundamental dangers shrouded in the stigma gay men face in the capital.
Photo credit: Darren Bell