Tumulus at the Soho Theatre: Press night review by Stephen Vowles

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. Ian Hallard and Ciaran Owens both reprise their roles with the male, early twenties part now played by Harry Lister Smith. 

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. The tight space these three actors work in adds to the atmosphere of claustrophobia and paranoia caused by being addicted to chemicals. 

This is also a murder mystery with Anthony played by Owens visited by the ghost of George, one of the characters played by Smith, to tell him he was murdered and that if he finds his necklace, he will find his killer. This is all a fabulous nod to the radio plays of the 1940s and the film noir private eye movies popular between the 1930s and 1950s epitomised by Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade novels. 

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. 

There are also some serious themes in the play: that age is a commodity, easily disposed of by society, survival is key and revenge is sweet. This is also frothy fun, elegantly executed where the assertiveness and magnetism generated by the cast, especially Ian Hallard playing multiple roles, results in a very entertaining night out.


Photos by Darren Bell

Tumulus runs to Saturday 4 May at Soho Upstairs at the Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, W1D 3NE. Box office: 020 7478 0100

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