Conjuring images of tropical islands, giant serpents, unicorns and monkey slaves, Philip Ridley’s play Tender Napalm makes its Sydney debut at the Old Fitz Theatre as part of their Late Night Show program.
Jordan Cowan and Tim Franklin are both lovely storytellers, and do a remarkable job in this highly energetic, physical piece. Although the plot is difficult to follow at times, both give solid performances. Cowan sizzles with vitality, with her trademark buoyancy and tomboy flair. Franklin is full of boyish charm and vigour, and they work extremely well together. They handle Matt Cornell’s choreography with ease, and the physical detail they find is wonderful.
However, the piece lacks a bit of clarity overall. Audience members were audibly complaining throughout that Franklin couldn’t be heard, and Cowan, whilst spirited, seemed to let the high-octane nature of the piece dictate her delivery, resulting in a few rushed speeches and jumbled lines. Despite this, both actors still managed to paint vivid pictures and take us on the journey with them.
It’s an interesting decision on director Alexander Butt’s part to retain the Briticisms from the original text – they speak about Wembley Stadium, Sainsbury’s, London Hospital, the “high street” and mini cab drivers – but perform it in such an Australian way. This certainly doesn’t detract from the production, but it is a little jarring.
In the final scene of the play, tender and delicately performed, we see two people on the brink of a wonderful adventure. It was a welcomed moment of truth after being taken on such a fantastical journey. You may leave not knowing much more than when you came in, but you will have seen a decent, skilfully performed piece of physical theatre.
Playing at The Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo until 30th January.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now