© 2019 by Matt Steinberg.

Image Credit: Will Adams

 

Overview

A chilling queer noir murder mystery in London’s chemsex scene.

When I first read the news

I was shocked

George was an ex-lover

(I’d never had a lover die on me before)

(This wasn’t the ’80s)

 

When Anthony’s one-night stand turns up dead on the Hampstead Heath tumulus, everyone assumes he’s another casualty of London’s chemsex culture.

 

But after a second body is discovered Anthony suspects foul play and is thrust into a terrifying, drug-fuelled journey to uncover the truth. 

 

From an acclaimed writer The Guardian said “should be taught on creative writing courses”, Tumulus is brought to life onstage by an award-winning team. This fast-paced, unflinching queer noir by Christopher Adams (The Royal Court, Theatre503, Bruntwood Prize longlist) pulses with energy. Like a gay (well, gayer) Murder She Wrote episode, an unlikely detective races to solve two murders before a killer strikes again.

Director's Notes

 

Inspired by classic murder mystery novels and film noir, the script examines how tropes historically hetero-normative genres can be applied to a story that explores the fears and frustrations of London’s LGBTQ+ community in 2018.

 

The production acknowledged the script’s cinematic inspiration by using foley to create the majority of sound effects live onstage, such as creaking doors or footsteps chasing down a dark street. This action was seamlessly integrated into our storytelling to create a thrillingly theatrical experience for audiences.

A key question of this modern ‘queer noir’ plot asks audiences to consider how Grindr and other dating apps shape and distort our identities. The script has 40 characters but only requires three actors: this multi-roleling represents how how our identities are becoming fluid and fractured as we increasingly negotiate relationships via technology. The production filtered the actors voices through a VoiceLive Touch2, which treats sounds with distortion and effects. This unique piece of equipment allowed us to represent how we shapes our identities in 2018 by presenting each of the play’s 40 characters as a distinct digitally generated voice filtered through a machine.

Reviews

★★★★ 'Matt Steinberg's direction is clever, using lights, props, set and sound to colour the world with understandably limited resources...A definite must-see this captivating and funny whodunit is bound to have legs after the Vault Festival and I’m excited to see where it goes next.' Attitude Magazine   

★★★★ 'If experimental theatre is your thing then this cleverly staged, slightly macabre murder mystery is for you...Director Matt Steinberg [has] put together a wonderful homage to film noir and those charming radio stories of the 1940's...This theatrical experience comes at you like an express train hurtling down the tracks.' Boyz Magazine 

★★★★ '…Uses well-crafted and engaging storytelling, with powerful movement direction, sound, and lighting to show aspects of the deep, intimate, and devastating experiences surrounding the chemsex scene in London.' LGBTQ Arts Review 

 

★★★★ 'The cast’s frantic but controlled performance captures the delirium, paranoia, and confusion of both the plot and its setting...Inventive use of props turns the everyday into a cinematic experience. With just a couple of tables on rollers, a few pairs of scissors, a mobile phone and a smoke machine, the cast and crew transport us to grimy squats, misty heaths and the darkest recesses of Anthony’s mind.' Everything Theatre 

'Matt Steinberg's production incorporates microphones, voice effects, a grinding sound design and imaginative lighting...An engrossing and entertaining, not to mention revealing portrait of London's chemsex culture.' The Stage

 

'Steinberg's direction takes Tumulus to further interesting places in a number of ways. A refusal to use sex to sell the production (either in the publicity or in the production itself) is hugely refreshing and focuses the attention away from the salacious. And having co-stars Ian Hallard and Tom Rhys Harries be foley artists as well as playing all the supporting parts adds to the atmosphere in the creation of an increasingly unnerving soundscape, keeping audiences on their toes as much as the twisting mystery that unfolds.' There Ought To Be Clowns 

 

Tumulus

By Christopher Adams

VAULT Festival - The Cage (January 2018)

Starring: Ian Hallard, Tom Rhys Harries and Ciarán Owens

Producer: Joanne Williams

Design: Alison Neighbour

Sound: Nick Manning

Lighting: Lucy Adams

Movement: Natasha Harrison