Scuti Productions
Holden Street Theatres
Until 29 Jun 2019

Review by Helen Karakulak

Scuti Productions’ “Tender Napalm” is an erratic exploration of a relationship, with good direction, explosive language and vivid characterisation successfully straddling the line between romantic deception and ignorant perseverance.

The writing of Philip Ridley offers confronting dialogue for Man, played by Mark Healy, and Woman, played by Carol Lawton, to hurl at each other through thick British accents, warm and scathing. From the get-go, the violent poetry is used as a weapon, hurled, then pulled back, hidden. As the script frantically leaps from one scenario in time to another, the audience is jolted and dragged from stories of the wildly imaginative to the intimate.

Healy and Lawton’s chemistry shines through the exploration of escape avenues in a relationship, exploring the wanderings of the mind shared between lovers and kept to oneself. Skilful at manipulating their voices to convey violent passion and mournful love, Healy and Lawton build off of one another in a feat of theatre that would be unable to be executed so effectively without such strong leads.

Their physicality ensures amusement, whether it be from exciting chases, weaving around one another with dramatic flair, or in sudden moments of sadistic intensity, with forceful descriptions of how they wish to execute their desire to bring each other both pain and love, raw and raging.

Both Healy and Lawton’s ability to rapidly switch their temperament and play such complex characters rolled into the simplification of merely Man and Woman, makes the performance highly engaging. Able to deliver the elaborate, lengthy wordplay of Ridley’s work that jumps between emotional and unrealistic allows them to showcase both individual and collaborative talent.

The characters were brought further depth through the way they view each other. Although never detracting from one another’s performance, notable moments include the way the leads react to each other’s immersive monologues. This is evident in Healey’s sudden but solemn understanding of the stress Man inflicts onto Woman. Along with Lawton’s indignant expression of frustration towards Man’s fantastical storytelling of violence, contrasted with Woman’s sympathy towards Man’s stories of loss.

The two leads were encompassed in washes of warmth and bold spots, with Bob Weatherly’s lighting complimenting the range of storytelling and steering the change of scenery with commendable subtlety.
The performance was further supported by excellent use of sound by Moses Monro, with emotive piano pieces building with the tension between characters, along with other sound effects interlaced with finesse, complimenting without overpowering the performance.

Rachel Williams’ satisfying, simplistic set design brought together an eclectic range of household objects piled on top of one another, as if representing the delicate nature of Man and Woman, built out of wreckage, capable of falling apart at any moment.

Although well-executed, “Tender Napalm” was not without its moments of frustration. Due to the convoluted storyline, audience members left the theatre with more questions than the production offered answers.

Intricate and intense, “Tender Napalm” is a story built on elaborate antithesis, with this production bringing a thought-provoking and wickedly entertaining 80 minutes of the most enjoyable whiplash you could ever have.