Presented by: Scuti Productions
Reviewed 21 June 2019
If you’re ready for a show that feels like a bold, sexual, potty-mouthed punch in the face, Tender Napalm is a focus on raunchy, violent and vivid escapism that is sure to satisfy.
This is a performance guaranteed to be unlike anything else you’ve seen, where rich imagination meets the inescapable power of love, and life for a young, passionate couple jumps between a faraway tropical island and the emotional wounds and relatable events of everyday life. As the audience first enter the theatre they are met with a loved-up couple, physically, sexually and emotionally entwined in one another. But this romantic atmosphere soon transforms into ferocious battles of words and physical attacks, before returning back to love – a confronting cycle that continues throughout the show.
After a while it becomes clear that this island reality may not be a reality at all, but rather an escapist fantasy for the couple. The surreal, imaginary scenes, which include being consumed by a sea monster and wars between armies of monkeys, contrast tremendously with the couple’s vulnerable moments of reality, emphasising their reality’s relatability which pulls the audience in deeper.
Director Rachael Williams definitely had a challenging production on her hands, with the script providing not only a complex storyline, but also challenging dialogue, such as multiple pages of a battle-sentence sequence which would intimidate any director. To prevent the 80-minute show from feeling stale, Williams has the actors continually moving, utilising the entire stage space. This includes different levels; from the tops of wooden coffee tables, where battles against giant sea monsters take place to lying flat against the floor in harmonious, bonding relaxation.
While some other productions of Tender Napalm have chosen to present it alongside an empty stage, Williams decided instead to fill the back of the stage with a stacked abundance of worn chairs, wooden cupboards, aged light stands, old suitcases and antique bedframes. These towers of jumbled furniture complement the story playing out in front of the audience, mimicking the baggage of emotional memories that stay stacked in the corners of all our minds.
With being the only two people on stage, actors Carol Lawton and Mark Healy have the challenge of being the centre of the audience’s attention for 80 minutes. They do an impressive job of maintaining a level of energy to keep their audience entertained, while also providing exciting bursts of entertaining liveliness on top of this when fighting imaginary creatures and each other. Both, though, are most powerful when performing emotional dialogues, which transport themselves and the audience back to their often challenging reality.
For those after thought-provoking theatre that will remain unpredictable til the very end, Tender Napalm is the show to see.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: The Studio, Holden Street
Theatres, 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh
Season: 19 – 29 June
Duration: 80 mins
Tickets: $25 – $28