Friday, 19 April 2019

Tumulus @ Soho Theatre

Tumulus @ Soho Theatre

Back in 2016, Stephen Port was convicted of serial rape and murder after luring in young gay men using the app Grindr and drugging them to the point of overdose. Christopher Adams' thriller Tumulus takes this as its inspiration.

This is a queer urban nightmare that plays with noir tropes. At a basic level it's a murder mystery that weaves through chemsex parties, London streets and the impenetrable darkness of Hampstead Heath. A ghostly figure from the past demands justice; an unsuspecting nearly-thirty-three year old man is compelled to uncover the truth.

Ciarán Owens' Anthony is a suave, charming and unreliable narrator. A librarian at the British Library, he pursues a not-so-secret life of sex and drugs in London's gay underworld. And, like all the gay characters, he's haunted not only by the death of previous lover George but by a strange tinnitus-like sensation in his mind. Drugs are the only answer.

Together with Ian Hallard and Harry Lister Smith, the three strong cast present a twisted vision of homosexual life. An early scene depicts a horrifying dinner party that magnifies stereotypes into a grim fantasy, but the play as a whole bristles with danger and tension. In this context, murder seems tragically inevitable.

Further atmosphere is delivered through live foley sound and chiaroscuro lighting, while Adams' script, narrated by Owens, swings from the poetic to the bleakly humorous. It ensures that this intrinsically gay mystery remains compelling through to the end, with all its gut-wrenching twists.

Beyond engaging storytelling, Tumulus is equally a comment on the anxiety of modern gay life. It's a cautionary tale that delivers riveting fantasy based on shocking reality.

4/5

Watch: Tumulus runs at the Soho Theatre until 4th May.

Tumulus @ Soho Theatre

Tumulus @ Soho Theatre
Photos: Darren Bell