How often at school has “You run like a girl!” been used as an insult? Adolescence is trying at the best of times, but once comments from peers about height, breasts and hips are also factored in, plus subliminal influences from thigh gap crazes and so on, being conscious of one’s body is firmly established in the minds of girls growing up… Written by and starring Sarah Milton, Tumble Tuck follows Daisy, who lives with her mother and swims with her regularly. It is an activity Daisy enjoys doing, and as someone who is naturally tall with a womanly figure, she’s a natural at gliding through the water. The only thing that grates is the comments her mother makes about her size: “This is my big girl!” As Daisy makes a point of saying, she “loves the bones” of her mother, but not her remarks. Ill-phrased comments from the outside world are one thing, but not when made repeatedly from one’s family.
A chance encounter between Daisy and Kath, the captain of the local swimming team, leads to Daisy being invited to participate as well – taking her outside her comfort zone and inevitably to self-made comparisons with her peers. In tandem with this, we find out about Daisy’s counseling – something’s she’s undertaken since splitting with her ex-boyfriend. Separated under acrimonious circumstances, he’s been making inroads by talking to everyone in her social circle and being particularly friendly with her best friend Alice. He may not be around anymore, but he’s very much ‘inside her head’…
Milton’s talents as a wordsmith come to the fore on Tumble Tuck as she deftly describes the movement of her body and limbs through water, an emancipatory activity that elevates her psychological and emotional well-being. But as well as having an ear for emotive rhthym and meter in prose, Milton has – to borrow Kipling’s phrase – the ‘common touch’, highlighting the unintentionally funny and absurd things we say and do in everyday life.
Asides from playing Daisy, Milton portrays Danny the swimming coach and several other characters, conveying as much with her posture and body language as her vocal delivery. Sometimes this is used to comic effect, sometimes to convey what can’t be said.
Upon leaving Tumble Tuck, what stays with the audience is the importance of female relationships, especialy with mothers and daughters. But just as important, if not more so, is the Wildean lesson of “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Deftly-told, Tumble Tuck‘s message about self-acceptance in mind and body is priceless.
© Michael Davis 2017
Tumble Tuck runs at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) on Aug 8-13, 15-27. Starting time: 13:30 (1 hour).