Theatre Review: Tender Napalm at the Southwark Playhouse

Controversial playwright Philip Ridley’s latest production TENDER NAPALM beautifully and lyrically explores the way love is transformed by loss.

PLAYWRIGHT Philip Ridley has a reputation for producing work that is controversial and at times divisive, meaning that certain people might shy away from seeing his dramas.

His latest play Tender Napalm, which premiers at the Southwark Playhouse, certainly contains graphic sexual imagery, but those of a delicate disposition needn’t stay away – it is a beautiful and lyrical exploration of how love is transformed in the face of unbearable loss.

The play doesn’t so much tell the story of a couple as take us on an ever-twisting journey through their minds. Fantasy is mixed with reality, ecstasy with pain as their relationship is revealed for us in such a delicious – but heartbreaking – way. To give away too many details would be to deny the viewer a wonderful experience.

Every element of this production works brilliantly – the Southwark Playhouse provides the perfect level of intimacy and the direction (especially the movement direction) is spot on. Jack Gordon as Man and Vinette Robinson as Woman deserve much acclaim for their ability to combine demanding physical performances with Ridley’s intricate dialogue, whilst bringing such tenderness to the characters that, despite their flaws, we care deeply for them.

Ridley’s background as an artist is apparent in the fantastical worlds he creates and he uses this to explore loss in a poetic but refreshingly un-mawkish way. His complex use of language is an absolute delight. I could - and would - watch this play again and again and get something different from it every time.

* Showing at the Southwark Playhouse, Shipwright Yard, SE1, until Saturday, May 14.

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