Tumulus at Soho Theatre
Anthony is no stranger to the hedonistic world of chemsex, a place in which participants take a concoction of drugs and alcohol to enhance intercourse. But when his one-night stand George is found dead on Hampstead Heath’s tumulus, the 32-year-old finds himself spiralling down into a darker world of substance misuse and murder.
Anthony (Ciarán Owens) takes another drug hit, feeling like he’s “made of cartilage instead of bone”. After meeting 26-year-old George (Harry Lister Smith), the two meet a total of 14 times in the space of two months. When George is discovered on the tumulus, police are quick to presume it is an unfortunate result of an overdose of GBL (gammabutyrolactone), though once Anthony starts seeing George’s apparition, he soon realises there has been foul play.
George is missing his necklace, The Eye of Horus, and persuades Anthony to investigate its whereabouts so he can go over to the other side in the spirit world. Matt Steinberg’s direction coupled with Alison Neighbour’s stage design produces an intimate space in which the three performers use cabinets and a long wooden desk on wheels to demonstrate interiors of various flats and houses. Microphones situated on the stage corners are cleverly used to create sounds echoing drug highs and the noises of London. Lighting design by Christopher Nairne and Nick Manning’s sound creations yield an atmospheric ambience to the otherwise simple stage setting, while writer Christopher Adams’s tautly penned script creates surprising humour though revolving around a heavy subject, as we see Anthony’s investigative descent. Meeting an array of young and older gay men at parties, he attends ex-boyfriend Jonathan’s birthday bash; the more drugs Anthony uses, the more intent he becomes on finding George’s killer. Ian Hallard’s older gay character is portrayed with fluidity and nuance, as are Owens’s Anthony and Lister Smith’s characters, though the latter’s prescribed voice to George could do with some development.
Tumulus is a bold piece that packs in a lot in its hour duration and brings to mind incidents of recent years where young men have been drugged, assaulted and killed through dating applications such as Grindr. Anthony’s monologue drives home the struggles of young gay men in the capital and the dangers of recreational drugs.
Photo: Darren Bell
Tumulus is at Soho Theatre from 16th April until 4th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.