Writer: Philip Ridley
Director: Chris Darnall
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Tender Napalmis a mind-blowing piece of writing from Philip Ridley. Clever, witty, poetic and emotive, this play has it all. In its Welsh premiere from Company of Sirens, enter the fantasy world of an unknown couple in an unknown place and see reality trying to rear its ugly head in their dreams as we explore their relationship in the face of atrocity.
A two-hander, Tender Napalmis performed to perfection by Matthew Buglo and Jannah Warlow. This hugely wordy piece is a massive undertaking for just two actors and, although quite long for a one-act play, Buglo and Warlow are thoroughly engaging throughout and both bring great depth to their characters. They each express a plethora of emotions both internally and towards each other, taking the audience on a roller coaster ride that takes your breath away and leaves the watcher stunned by the experience. Warlow also demonstrates that she has a beautifully haunting singing voice that is a pleasure to listen to.
Costumed in light coloured outfits that are stained and torn, their design cleverly gives a sense of trauma without giving away a place, era or any indication of what that trauma might have been.
The auditorium is set up with audience members seated either side of the performance area which works well to draw the audience in, with Chris Durnall’s direction suiting this well. Bethany Seddon’s set design is perfectly minimalistic and coupled with Jane Lalljee’s subtle lighting, the actors are given the blank canvas they need to beautifully blur the lines between fantasy and reality, imagining everything from memories of a party to unicorns and serpents.
The soundscape follows the same subtly effective theme; complementing but never detracting from the drama. It is used to particular effect as the audience enter the auditoriumand – coupled with Buglo and Warlow being in the performance space from the outset; pacing, fidgeting and staring – creates a feel of unease and anticipation.
Contemporary and edgy,Tender Napalm may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it is undeniable that Company of Sirens have produced an incredible piece of theatre in bringing this play to Wales for the first time.
Runs until Saturday, 26 April 2014