Just like love itself Tender Napalm, La Boite's most recent offering written by Philip Ridley and directed by David Berthold, hits you with the force of a bomb, then wraps you up gently warm like a blanket, then repeats.
Performed marvellously by young actors Ellen Bailey and Kurt Phelan, Berthold's production of Tender Napalm marries language and movement seamlessly. Choreographed by Garry Stewart, the actors glide, punch and spin out their words with the text playing the role of the music for the duo's dance. Both Bailey and Phelan shine in equal measure as layer upon layer they create the worlds around them with voice and movement, and there is not one second that the audience isn't thoroughly swept along for the ride.
Tender Napalm is written mighty cleverly. Capturing the spirit of the teenage lovers with comic book heroism and toe-curling insecurities and smashing it against achingly real and suddenly adult situations, metaphor abounds as reality slips in and out of focus for the two characters. The script keeps you on your toes, moving quickly between time and setting, leaving and coming back to the middle of stories, taking moments from one world and realising their importance as part of another. Of course, a great play can't stand on the merit of its writing and relies on performance for its potential to come to fruition. This production does this exquisitely. Each moment is clearly communicated without any painful over-telling, expecting the audience to rise to the challenge of the text heavy performance, just as the actors have.
The design by Justin Nardella is phenomenal. Manipulating scale and movement, the apparent simplicity of the set belies the intricate precision which makes it work, and work wonderfully. One could go so far as to say the show is worth seeing for this alone; it refreshes expectations about how things can look on stage.
Tender Napalm is simply one of those rare and great shows where everything comes together just right. Anyone with a hankering for beautifully crafted, meticulously meted and wonderfully performed theatre will get their fill here. See it and weep, laugh, be moved and inspired.
La Boite Theatre Company presents
Written by Philip Ridley
Dates: 21 - 29 September, 2012
Venue: Roundhouse Theatre, La Boite Theatre Company, 6-8 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove