Tender Napalm, written by Philip Ridley, is a surreal story about a couple trapped in a fictional cosmos that they themselves have created. It’s a twisted battle of the sexes, played out through bizarre battles involving serpents, monkeys and aliens. But beneath these seemingly benign arguments appears a very real need to deal with the trauma of the past, a tragedy of loss hinted at throughout the work.
Produced by TBC – a relatively new theatre company in Melbourne, with an apparent focus for more traditional script-based works – and directed by Alice Darling, Tender Napalm is intriguing and detailed.
Performers (Trudi Boatwright and Ben Adams) carry the work well, tacking long speeches intended to take us to distant realms of the world (and the universe). And it is here that the work falls somewhat short.
While the two protagonists within the world exhibit an ability to suspend their disbelief as they become lost in their own fictional world, the work’s capacity to do the same to the spectators must be questioned. This may be partially due to the long monologues within the script itself and the lack of intriguing action. However, far more likely is the vacuous space in which the work is performed, with the audience (seated in traverse perhaps as a reflection of the various dualities inherent in the play) either staring at one another or into empty spaces of the room as they listen to the performers.
Despite this, TBC’s production has some original staging and some pretty solid performances for the most part. Special mention must go to the technical side of the work, with some excellently integrated sound design (Justin Ashworth).