Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At Company of Sirens

Company of Sirens- Tender Napalm , Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff , May 14, 2014
At Company of Sirens by Company of Sirens- Tender Napalm This Welsh premiere of Philip Ridley’s ‘Tender Napalm’ by Company of Sirens charts the intense but sometimes darkly comic journey of two lovers coming to terms with a tragic event.

Both roles are extremely challenging, with no hiding place for the actors. Onstage for the whole play on a stripped-down set, they are constantly on the move, constantly surprising and outdoing each other with outlandish, brutal and increasingly wild fantasies and memories. With the play completely reliant on their words and movement throughout, Matthew Bulgo and Jannah Warlow give powerful performances, completely inhabiting their unnamed characters.

There is an enjoyable playfulness in watching each lover’s inventive reaction to the other’s latest lurid fantasy, either topping it with a more extreme fantasy or else comically undercutting and undermining it. This verbal and physical contest, with its sweeping to and fro of poetic imagery, forms the structure of the play. But beneath these competing fantasies, other themes emerge as we begin to sense the lovers’ feelings of loss, grief and blame.

In the Q and A session following the first-night performance, Philip Ridley explained his desire to shine a light on the paradoxically violent language of love, in much-used romantic phrases such as ‘you tore me apart’, ‘you broke my heart’, etc. Ridley explores the stark violence of this language by replacing well-worn phrases with images of his own, such as pushing a bullet delicately between a lover’s lips.
As the play progresses, a striking transformation of the mood casts a new light on the storm we have witnessed up to that point.

The simplicity of set and plot create a feeling of unconstrained freedom, allowing the characters to transport the audience to whatever bizarre world they can invoke through words and movement. This striking production is expertly directed by Chris Durnall, with a keen sense of the timing and rhythms of Ridley’s play.

Reviewed by: Tim Rhys

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