Photo Credit: Darren Bell
An off-West End remount of 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.
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 2019.
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 2019 by presenting each of the play’s 40 characters as a distinct digitally generated voice filtered through a machine.
★★★★★ '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...Matt Steinberg’s direction was masterful, working the stage to its maximum capacity and never leaving it empty...This play is truly exceptional theatre and honestly, drop what you are doing and book to see this. Now.' Pocket Size Theatre
★★★★ '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...Steinberg's beats fall in place exquisitely within the text, delivering a determined and dynamic show that's compelling on all dimensions.' Broadway World
★★★★ 'I first experienced Christopher Adams’s play Tumulus back in January last year and was intrigued then, and my intrigue has been maintained by this new production...The power of this piece has not diminished in anyway, in fact it has been heightened and intensified due to the intimacy of the venue...All three actors deliver Adams’s script with a distinctive crisp style and Matt Sternberg’s very fluid direction keeps the whole 65 minutes zipping along. With the clever use of sound and intense lighting effects and direct narrative chats with the audience, the build up to the finale is both believable and worthy of any good whodunnit.' Boyz Magazine
★★★★ 'Tumulus is a show that is taut, tight, but never loses it’s edge, thanks to sharp writing by Christopher Adams and direction by Matt Steinberg.' The Gay UK
★★★★ Love London Love Culture
★★★★ Remote Goat
★★★★ Upper Circle
★★★★ South London Press
'Where the result of such meta-theatre that reveals – and revels in – the machinery of its theatre-making might easily have jarred, it works to great, playful effect. It also, ironically, adds to the suspense, even as it removes the fourth wall...Tumulus’s slick meta-theatre is an original way to deliver a thriller.' The Guardian
'Matt Steinberg’s production fits the Soho Theatre’s Upstairs satisfyingly: on wheels, a low table (like a kitchen island, or a mortician’s slab) and two filing cabinets stand in for Anthony’s London haunts, washed in and out around him. When Ian Hallard and Harry Lister Smith speak, as a number of other characters in matching red running shorts, their voices are twisted by microphones until they sound plural. As if some uncanny secondary always speaks alongside them.' Exeunt Magazine