Tender Napalm at the King’s Head Theater
On a pure white lower stage, a man (Jaz Hutchins) faces a woman (Adeline Waby). There is a pause and then he says “Your mouthâ. And so begins the roller coaster ride that is the one-act play by Philip Ridley. Tender napalm at the King’s Head Theater.
The man and woman are trapped on a desert island – or are they – and play a constant game of telling each other fantastic stories about who they are and where they are on the island – again, or are doing it – they ?
This is the conundrum of Ridley’s writing, what is real and what is not. As we travel with the man and woman, their fantasies are interspersed with glimpses into the time of a party they both attended as a teenager. But is this shared experience real or is it a way to tie their individual fantasies together to connect them both? Well I saw the play and read the script but still not sure. Normally this would leave me really frustrated and rather stupid but, in this case, the effect is very different. Cause it doesn’t matter what’s real and what
is the whimsy, the quality of the writing, directing and acting, takes all of that hassle away and just gave me a wonderful feeling of experiencing something unique.
Ridley’s story – and I use that word quite loosely – covers a wide range of subjects. I could list them all here, but instead I’ll give you a glimpse of the ones that really stood out to me: pomegranates, ducks, a tsunami, enslaved monkeys, a whale-shaped rock, mango and passion fruit, alien genocide and a very unusual Atlantis dolphin. A massive eclectic selection of things Ridley somehow weaves into interconnected male and female stories that immerse audiences in the real / fantasy world and hold their attention for seventy truly compelling minutes. It is superb writing, albeit totally confusing.
Hutchins and Waby have real chemistry as Male and Female respectively. They deliver their individual stories beautifully but, more importantly, they really listen when the other is praising it. You feel the story they hear is fresh and as captivating to them as it is to the audience. Each brings their character to life wonderfully. The man is a “real man” (whoever he is) with a tender side, while the woman is a competitor in the game of life with a desire to win. But beneath their bravado and surface there are two people who might be acquaintances / friends / comrades / lovers, who knows what? In the fantastic world they inhabit, anything is possible. Both characters, and by definition the actors, are incredibly energetic and director Max Harrison, along with motion director Sam Angell, really takes the actors to provide physical accompaniment to their different stories that uses every inch of the space. representation and connects the eyes. to the ears for the audience who picks up the magic words. I had a problem with that and there was a point, about halfway through the show, where the woman was standing directly between me and the man, blocking my view. Frustrating but in some ways understandable with a push step.
Before I summarize, I want to mention the lighting. A friend of mine who is a designer told me that the mark of good lighting is that you don’t notice it, and designer Holly Ellis did a great job lighting up this show. The light changes are very subtle and work perfectly with the script setting the mood beautifully.
In summary. I think Tender napalm is one of those shows where a hundred different people will watch it and take away a hundred different interpretations of what they have seen. I absolutely loved it. Ridley’s writing is amazing, taking emotions from elation to sadness in one paragraph. His use of words to create images is truly superb. For example, my favorite line from the whole show is this one, “I raise my sword. It’s like digging a hole in a sky made of meatâI could never have imagined putting together a sentence like that but when I heard it, pronounced with real force by the man, I could immediately imagine the scene and I was totally immersed in it. While the pace slows down a bit towards the end, the show itself is top notch and, like any good theater should, leaves the audience with plenty to think about and discuss as they make it their business to understand the journey he has just made. . Brilliant.
Terry Eastham live review
Two lovers. A desert island. Sea snakes. UFO. Tsunami. Unicorns. Atomic bombs. What is this thing called …
love? This brutal but tender biman explores the heights and depths of a romantic relationship through a
series of narrative threads, ranging from the fantastic to the hallucinatory. Immerse yourself in the most primitive human
emotions – raw, visceral and dangerously honest.
Man – Jaz Hutchins
Woman – Adeline Waby
Writer Philip Ridley
Director Max Harrison
Movement director Sam Angell
Hinchcliffe Costume and Set Creation Kit
Lighting by Holly Ellis
Sound design by Camille Marchadour
Producer ZoÃ© Weldon
Manager Gianluca Zona
Lidless Theater and Zoe Weldon present:
The 10th anniversary revival of Philip Ridley’s flagship play
Written by Philip Ridley | Directed by Max Harrison
26 Oct – 20 Nov 2021
King’s Head Theater, 115 Upper Street, London N1 1QN