With a series of exciting monologues last year, prolific playwright Philip Ridley had a good lockdown. But I’m not alone in wanting Ridley’s work back on stage. This expert revival of a real gem is a thrilling treat.
Tender Napalm is a romance, told with startling originality. The memories and fantasies of a couple swing from love to hate. The stories they concoct between them are gripping – passionate and violent.
Tales you’d “hardly believe” feature unicorns, UFOs and a common or garden tsunami! In suggesting spontaneity, while delivering Ridley’s poetic lines, performers Adeline Waby and Jaz Hutchins are superb.
Kit Hinchcliffe’s minimal design is a perfect blank canvas for colourful displays of imagination. A potentially static piece, Sam Angell’s bold work as movement director is strong. The occasionally childlike movements are particularly unsettling.
What is poisoning the relationship we watch, the motive for a kind of therapeutic exercise, is surely the death of a child. Ridley isn’t explicit: emotions, like the scenarios, are fluid. But whatever is wrong creates increasing tension.
Yet tenderness is present too. It’s in allowing the care between the characters to show that Hutchins and Waby excel. A change of pace towards the end of the piece is exquisitely handled.
Director Max Harrison has a thorough appreciation of Ridley’s brilliant text. Best of all, Harrison balances a peculiar dark humour with Ridley’s astonishing imagination. The “universe of dreams” this production provides a view of is, in all senses of the word, fantastic.
Until 20 November 2021
Photo by Mark Senior