As the headliner of the Who Runs The World? festival, Camille LaPaix chats to writer and performer Sarah Milton. Tumble Tuck is a story of self-confidence and self-belief.

It was one of our editor’s top picks for these spring months, and now the Who Runs The World? festival at the King’s Head Theatre comes to a close. Over three weeks, a variety of productions have been staged, all with one key feature in common – each piece was written by a female playwright. Senior Producer Louisa Davis has made it abundantly clear that this festival was programmed, among other things, as a response to an open response produced by the Hampstead Theatre’s Artistic Director, Edward Hall, in 2017 that professed he could not find any suitable female playwrights to programme work at his venue.

Tumble Tuck King's Head Theatre

Sarah Milton (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

Headlining this festival was Tumble Tuck, written and performed by Sarah Milton. I caught up with Sarah after I saw her astonishing performance to find out a bit more about the production itself:

Does Tumble Tuck feel as exciting and brand new as when you started?

“Completely! I struggle with nerves, they’re really bad and before each show I just feel very poorly for about half an hour. I worry that I won’t know the lines; that I won’t be able to deliver; that I will need the bathroom. Everything that could go wrong happens in my head for half an hour before the show.

“Strangely, I find it stressful when it is reviewed well too, because I wonder: what if I’m not going to be able to do that every single show? But in the end, as a creative, you are always learning. I don’t think you will ever be a complete and perfect writer or actor, and that is just something you have to make peace with. No show will ever be the same – that’s theatre, that’s the beauty of it, not the fear of it.”

Tumble Tuck King's Head Theatre

Sarah Milton (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

And I’m guessing there is the added trouble that this is very much an audience-dependant show.

“Yes, everything changes and shifts if the audience member is reluctant to get involved. There is more work on my half to talk to somebody else, and some jokes will resonate more with some people than others. For instance, if I have an heavy male audience, different jokes are laughed at.”

“I’ve had an audience member say to me that she only remembers sitting in theatres with men laughing at jokes because that’s the way theatre is mainly tailored, but when she saw Tumble Tuck, it was the first time she could actually see women laughing at jokes and men not getting them. Men laugh with Daisy, not at her, but it’s so fascinating how some jokes only resonate with one gender.”

Tumble Tuck King's Head Theatre

Sarah Milton (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

As the headliner of the Who Runs The World? festival, how does Tumble Tuck fit in to the ethos of this programme?

“The festival, and Tumble Tuck, is a direct answer to say,

‘There are female playwrights, we do exist, there are works, you are simply not looking’.

“The show is great for that – as Daisy, I ask you to physically look at me. There’s a whole scene where I stand and ask you to look at every inch of me: my bottom and my back and my shoulders and my feet, everything about me that you can possibly see. I’m physically exposing myself in a swimming costume and that’s what this festival is about. It’s saying,

‘Look at us, we’re here to be programmed, we’re here to write and tell stories, we write interesting shows and you just need to open your eyes and look. We are here.’

Tumble Tuck King's Head Theatre

Sarah Milton (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

It comes across strongly that Daisy is trying very hard throughout the play to reconcile two parts of herself, to feel the same outside the pool as she does inside it. Why do you think that concept feels so relatable, so universal for women?

“I think we all have one thing we feel more confident at, and it’s usually the thing we’re most praised on, or something we do as a hobby that you really love. For women, I think it’s a fear of that taking up space. There is a need to apologise for existing all the time that we naturally do subconsciously. As women there are so many settings where we don’t feel welcome, settings that feel unaccessible to us as a gender, I think that’s why.”

You drew on your own experience in both writing and performing Tumble Tuck. How does that change the way you approach the play?

“I have a director I entirely trust implicitly with my work so that definitely helps when you’re going into a space for rehearsals – Tom [Wright] and I modelled the show together. Tumble Tuck is not biographical narratively but emotionally it is, and in the end, isn’t that what our craft as an actor is? We use our emotions and learn to leave them all behind at the same time. I draw from what I am emotionally connected to in the script, and I am very nervous for instance of my mum seeing the show because the play is drawn a lot from our relationship. But I am Daisy, not Sarah, and I don’t know who that woman is in the audience.”

Tumble Tuck King's Head Theatre

Sarah Milton (image courtesy of Alex Brenner)

What do you want the audience to take from your play when they leave the King’s Head Theatre? What do you want them to do?

“Call their mum! Congratulate themselves for getting out of bed in the morning because sometimes that’s really hard, particularly when you have a mental health issue. Celebrate the women around them because they are privileged to know them. Women are fierce, awesome bitches and we deserve this space.

 

 

Tumble Tuck runs at the King’s Head Theatre until 12 May 2018 as headliner of the Who Runs The World festival. For further information, please visit the venue website.