Peter Burrell-Sander prefers odourless napalm.
I went in to the interestingly named Tender Napalm with no preparation apart from that apt titling choice, and found it to be confronting, meaningful and at several times even shocking. This is a performance which doesn’t hold too much back when it comes to examining the ins and outs, ups and downs of a tumultuous, fragile relationship.
The script itself was written by Phillip Ridley, a renowned playwright, but the show that took place in the Cellar Theatre was as much the product of the SUDS team as anything else. The acting looked exhausting. Alice Birbara and Harry Winsome poured themselves into their roles, leaving the stage lathered in sweat from an hour and a half of bodily expression of emotion and meaning.
I was particularly pleased with the lighting and sound, which were entirely of the casts own creation. The music seemed both suitable and well-utilised. The play ends after a chaotic confrontation between the couple which felt all the more intense and immediate through clever use of sound and lighting. That was by no means the first time in the show such an effect was achieved.
One gets the sensation that one is an intruder as you watch the war-torn, love-torn couple wrestle with their personal issues, each other and occasionally literally each other. It’s an almost voyeuristic window into the kinds of tensions and emotional weaknesses human beings are prone to accumulating.
In some ways, Tender Napalm serves as a reminder of just how sanitised a lot of media we experience is, plays and otherwise. It’s rare to actually see the horrible, messy details of conflict and love, the sheer misery and pointlessness of some human interactions. Arguments are all too often reduced to a few pointed lines of script so the audience understands the thrust of the disagreement, but this performance takes no such shortcuts and is the better for it.
Tender Napalm had a few more grenades than I’d expected, in more ways than one. It serves as an excellent way to further understand the fragility of humanity and the catastrophic consequences which can lay around every corner. At times one might be a little confused by the maelstrom you appear to have landed in once it’s in full swing, but don’t let that concern you. Whether you’re experiencing a moment of fantasy or reality, projected emotions are the same. Tender Napalm is an experience worth having.