In Tumble Tuck, writer-performer Sarah Milton evokes the fraught and chlorine-scented world of competitive swimming. She’s Daisy, an uncertain girl in a Speedo costume and swimming cap who’s asked to join the ladies’ relay team by the svelte and haughty captain Cath. Milton perfectly contrasts Daisy’s flustered Essex tones with Cath’s self-assured drawl and coach Danny’s blokey poolside incitements.
The gentle humour of all this belies the sadness at its core. With an admirable lightness of touch, Milton steers her characters into darker psychological terrain. We learn that Daisy has endured a traumatic experience at the hands of her first love Pete, who’s now in prison.
Her best friend Alice betrays her by striking up an epistolary relationship with the disgraced ex. Then there are deep-seated mother-daughter issues: Daisy’s mum refers to her as “my big daughter”, and remarks blithely that her nylon-clad rear is reminiscent of a whale.
Issues of body image – and the felt physical experience of being a female taking up space – are portrayed sensitively. There are also wonderful choreographed sequences that evoke the therapeutic act of swimming – the repetitive dance of limbs and head – and the frantic, flooding fear of anxiety dreams. A compelling story, deftly told.