On a small outcrop of rock sit a barefooted Man and Woman, his arms around her shoulders, their love obvious and solitary. This is a couple, alone but together. From the get-go their dialogue is intense, poetic, and brutal with their actions quickly following suit. It is clear that this is not everyday reality but, in a consensus of two, it is the all they have. They could just as easily be sitting in a concrete tower block, a country manor, or a prison cell. The fantastical view from this so-called island changes rapidly, as does their relationship. From their initial embrace grows discontentment, laced heavily with sexual overtones, and their progression from love to hate veers back and forth. The symbiotic dialogue between Man (Stephen Tadgh) and Woman (Ashleigh Dorrell) reaches the height of fantasy on their desert island, as they battle monsters, lead armies of monkeys, and encounter extraterrestrial life. Spliced cleanly against this are moments of raw sexual energy, bordering on the obscene, coupled with memories of a more grounded reality. In the dichotomy between the imagined and the real lies the truth and this slowly begins to surface as the story unfurls in concertina.
Under the direction of Sarah Finlay Tender Napalm is full of life and vitality, excellently devised as the action battles against the core darkness of the story. In any two-hander it is essential that casting is faultless and thankfully Tadgh and Dorrell both deliver sterling performances. Their relationship is wholly believable, which is no mean feat given the dreamlike quality of the piece. The intensity of new love, the longing of lust, and the rawness of unadulterated sex are captured perfectly by this imperfect couple. This is nicely balanced out with dark humour and outright laughs, as well as moments of borderline gymnastics from Tadgh. The incredibly simple set (Áine O’ Hara) is an ideal backdrop to a story that relies heavily upon the imagination of the audience. This is heightened by sound (Enda Roche) and lighting (Cillian McNamara), both of which evoke the magnificence of the fantasy world and the starkness of reality.
Given the elaborate concoction of island adventures, monsters, and aliens that form a central part of the story it is no surprise that Ridley also writes children’s literature. Once this element is embraced and accepted the audience is treated to 80 minutes of intense performance that is both daring and delightful. Tender Napalm is, in a strange way, an adult fairytale complete with the monsters we create ourselves. The seemingly random tales begin to interlace and in a circuitous manner sense is made of the nonsensical. Whatever trauma has occurred for Man and Woman has left a black hole in their lives and in the impossible attempt to fill it they have created a world of isolation that has cut them off from reality. The impact of loss has shattered them to near breaking point but there is something deeper and less tangible that still binds them together. It is this element of the human condition that pulls the story from love to hate and back again. The adventures Man and Woman keep the momentum going and entertain while the real story is being slowly pieced together. One lesson from the land of fairytales worth remembering is that you need to believe in something before you can see it.
Good Buzz Productions present Philip Ridley’s award winning play Tender Napalm at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin until July 9 2016.
Note: This performance is strictly for adults and contains plenty of expletives.
Man / Stephen Tadgh
Woman / Ashleigh Dorrell
Director / Sarah Finlay
Set & Costume Designer / Áine O’Hara
Lighting Designer / Cillian McNamara
Sound Designer / Enda Roche
Executive Producer / Stephen Tadgh
Creative Producer / Soazig Métrope
Marketing Assistant / Caoimhe O’Carroll
Stage Manager / Sinead Purcell
DATES & TIMES
June 27th – July 9th 2016
All Performances @ 8pm
€15 (€12 concession)