Monday, 15 May 2017

Tumble Dramaturgy: Sarah Milton @ Edfringe 2017

Tumble Tuck
Underbelly Cowgate (Iron Belly), 66 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1JX Thursday 3rd – Sunday 27th August 2017 (not 14th), 13:30

Daisy’s swimming the relay, but Daisy’s legs still jiggle... and her front crawl is ‘a bit f***ing feminine’. She shouldn’t be here...

Tumble Tuck, written by Sarah Milton and presented by BackHere! Theatre, tells the story of a young woman struggling to accept herself and realise her strength. It explores what it means to be successful in a world where medals matter. Daisy’s relationship with water is complex; it’s the only place where she feels safe so why must she be judged for how well she performs in it?

This funny, brutal and heartfelt
piece seeks to examine the pressure we put on young people, when sometimes just taking part is truly an achievement. A bronze medal to one person, is someone else’s gold; a C grade is someone else’s A. Tumble Tuck questions the system that tells us that if we’ve not got the best result we’ve failed.

Tumble Tuck is a fast-paced, one woman show, with original music by Harry Blake, that examines self-worth in young women today. Milton was prompted to write Tumble Tuck after noticing the rise in television shows with panels. Judging panels on TV are successful due to the immediate drama that arises when someone doesn’t achieve; there are shows where contestants are judged on baking, ice skating, singing and even one’s ability to barbecue. Viewers at home can vote and judge too and judgement has become omnipresent in today’s society.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Tumble Tuck was written on the Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab 2015/16, and was inspired by a few things. Firstly, my own battles with mental health, which fed into the story. But also, more broadly, the pressure on young people to look a certain way, attain certain grades and achieve certain life goals. It’s impossibly overwhelming in this judgemental society we now live in. 

The character of Daisy swims because that’s where she feels free, and Tumble Tuck explores what an achievement it is for her to feel just that.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
Of course! Theatre for me is ultimately about breaking those walls down and making room for discussion. If conversation isn’t evoked from a piece of performance, then why was it there? Communicating ideas about the world we share is how we change perceptions and challenge stereotypes and I believe that live performance is the perfect platform for those conversations to start.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I’ve always been a performer. I told my Mum at the age of ten that I would be going to RADA (I actually ended up going to Mountview, which was absolutely wonderful training). I came out of drama school feeling very limited to my label as ‘actor’. In 2013, a year after graduating, I was invited to take part in the Lyric Hammersmith’s writing course run by Sade Brown and Duncan MacMillan and I wrote my first play TidySham, which was listed for the Adrian Pagan Award. 

From this, I realised I had other capabilities as an artist. Then, when taking part in the Writers’ Lab at Soho and seeing productions by performance artists like Bryony Kimmings, I saw that when making performance your imagination is limitless.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?With Tumble Tuck, it was the script that came first
and then Tom Wright (the director) and I worked together through the physical journey of it to discover who Daisy was. It was Tom’s idea to include musical underscoring, so he invited Harry Blake to the project, and he just totally understood the show from the word go. Changes and edits to the script came organically, and the show evolved into what it is now.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?This is my first full production of my work. I write a lot of poetry and spoken word, and have never done a one woman show before so no, but maybe: who knows!

What do you hope that the audience will experience?I want them to come away celebrating their personal achievements, however small they may seem to others around them. I want them to want Daisy to give herself a break and, in turn, allow themselves a break. Life’s tough, and sometimes just getting in the pool is achievement enough.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I think the direct address of the script helps - it’s very much a conversation between the audience and Daisy. It’s honest, it’s unapologetic and it asks questions of them. Daisy’s essentially asking for reassurance from the audience, and I hope they can apply the answers they give to her to themselves.

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