Jack and Jill went up to The Hill pub for three pints and some slippery nipple shots. Jack brings home Gretel, Jill brings home Peter. Just average one-night stands that somehow turn into relationships, and then long-term relationships, and it’s not long before Peter has moved in with Jill and Gretel has moved in with Jack.
Tumbling After is structured as a sort of modern storybook. The set up is all rather Brechtian, with the flats marked by white tape and ‘door’ and ‘window’ stickers; the only furniture is white flat-pack IKEA stuff, the kind you’ll find in most flats of the under 20s. In this way, Tumbling After is stunningly relevant –not surprisingly, since the actors drew on their own experiences in the devising process.
Particularly interesting is the use of upright beds: the symbolic centrepiece of both relationships. This does however mean that all four actors had to learn how to simulate sex at 65 degrees – which is not an easy feat, but RedBellyBlack make it seem totally effortless.
What I love here is the balance between their dynamic physicality and language. Usually where physical theatre is involved, it can either dwarf the text or seem like an unnecessary add-on. But with Tumbling After, the physical scenes aren’t an unnecessary addition; they show us what can’t be easily said with words.
I’ll admit the whole Jack/Jill thing is verging on gimmicky but it can be forgiven. This would be an issue if the characters were flat and undimensional but they’re not; we can understand their reasoning, they have ambitions and talents and pasts and, ultimately, they’re just like us. And with such a simple concept, genuine characters are needed to bring the piece to life. Such elements are what make Tumbling After touching and evocative exploration of twenty-first century love.
Tumbling After is playing at SpaceTriplex (venue 38) until August 29. For more information, visit the Fringe website.