Tumble Tuck, King’s Head Theatre – Review

Photo by Alex Brenner
Sarah Milton as Daisy  / All photos © Alex Brenner

Previously appearing at Soho Theatre and a critically-acclaimed run in Edinburgh, Sarah Milton’s Tumble Tuck returns – this time to headline the Who Runs The World? Festival at King’s Head Theatre. For those of you unfamiliar with my Edinburgh review, click on the link below:

Tumble Tuck, Edinburgh Fringe Festival – Review

The production that’s currently running at King’s Head Theatre has been reworked – extended and adapted to take advantage of the ‘in the round’ seating arrangement at the venue. The discussion below entails aspects of the show I’ve not previously covered.

Photo by Alex Brenner

There aren’t many plays that deal with women’s relationship with sport and exercise, and even fewer that have crossed over from the Fringe to mainstream theatre. In Tumble Tuck, we follow Daisy’s transition from casual, ‘amateur’ swimmer to competing with a professional team at a meet.

Like all plays and films that deal in sport, the activity itself is never what the main narrative is really about. In Tumble Tuck‘s case, what’s most striking is the importance of Daisy’s female relationships. As the ‘non-professional’ swimmer, Daisy’s more than a little intimidated by Kath and Sophie on the team, whose prowess, physique and technique have been conditioned by swimming coach Danny over time. Certainly, Sophie and Kath are exceptional swimmers, but do they actually enjoy themselves when they compete?

This brings us to one of the important threads in the play: who do women make the effort for. The other girls on the team have disciplined themselves in every way to Danny’s training regime, but Daisy knows that as a young woman with ‘proper curves’, she doesn’t have the coveted V-shaped torso that is ideal for resisting drag in the water. Daisy’s also expected to shave her legs to help her glide in water, but one could say that’s an imposition society places on women anyway…

A world away from competitive swimming, is Daisy’s friend Alice. Similar enough in appearence to be sisters, Alice shares with Daisy a love of chocolate and the only person to be confided in about the meet. However, their relationship raises the issue of what is true female solidarity and the greatest taboo that a best friend or sister can violate.

Observing all and a constant presence in Daisy’s life is of course her mother. Meaning well, but not self-aware enough to realize the long-term impact of her words, she epitomises the love/‘hate’ relationship with family. She also knows Daisy well enough to know the only time she lies is when her ex, Pete, is on the scene… Such is the emotional fallout of this relationship that Daisy has sought counselling from “Debbie/Linda”– a.k.a. “drawn on eyebrows lady”…

As I said previously, the production that’s currently running has been extended and adapted to take advantage of the ‘in the round’ seating arrangement at King’s Head Theatre. It’s no exaggeration to say that this has brought an extra dimension to Tumble Tuck, allowing Milton to interact more readily with audience and in keeping with the play, more movement in general.

The extra time has also allowed more details to be included, such as Daisy pondering over what she would be like as a mother and how she’ll endeavour to use words of positive reinforcement so that her daughter won’t ever feel as badly as she has. In addition, we see how even indulging in chocolate is a pastime to savour, and Daisy response to Pete’s ‘foreplay’ may have acted as a catalyst for their break-up…

As someone who has seen Tumble Tuck during its Soho and Edinburgh runs, I can hand-on-heart say that this is the definitive version of the play. Go and see it.

© Michael Davis 2018

Five Stars

Tumble Tuck runs at King’s Head Theatre until 12th May.

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