One of the deadliest and most cruel weapons being described as ‘tender’ could be seen as strange but when placed in the context of the battle of love, pain and tenderness go hand in hand. Unifaun Theatre Company brings to light this endless chaotic battle through Phillip Ridley’s play Tender Napalm. Known for his risk taking works and in-yer-face style, Ridley’s play confronts the audience with an abode of lust, fantasy and agony whilst Toni Attard’s direction throws you right into the heart of the action.
As the audience enter we see two lovers writhing around on a sand covered floor, roughly yet intimately playing with one another’s faces. As they begin to talk a world of shipwrecked fantasy unfolds around them. Violence, sex and playful storytelling ensue, involving sea monsters, aliens, unicorns and war. It is never clear what is truth or what is fiction yet that is the beauty of the frenzied love affair they inhabit leaving the audience wondering whether they are truly stranded on this island or whether it was all a mirage.
Intimately staged with only a small performance space the audience is immediately invited to become part of it, part of the love affair and the island itself. From the offset this evokes an almost participatory position and at times a slightly uncomfortably close viewing point for the most intimate of scenes.
Andre Agius as ‘Man’ and Bettina Paris as ‘Woman’ do well to command every part of the small space they have although at times concentration was lost as words were stumbled upon and an unfortunately awkward struggle to change costume occurred.
The choreography and direction of the fight scene however was well executed with passion charging every movement and a real sense of urgency created. The language of Ridley’s script is both an attack and a caress that carries the play throughout complimented by the huge amount of energy and vigour that both cast members gave to their performances.
Overall the brutal yet poetic language of the play makes for a poison-laced love story, yet there is something missing. Perhaps it is the ending that is somewhat disappointing with the story amounting to a possible escape from grief losing the violent passion that the rest of the play holds. Or it could be the overly used technique of reincorporation mimicking the beginning to the end that lets it down. The play amounts to an enjoyable experience, but ironically misses the extra vibrancy and spark needed to evoke the lust for more.
10-25 August, 4.50pm.