Tag Archives: Kit Hinchcliffe

Tender Napalm

Tender Napalm

★★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

 Tender Napalm

Tender Napalm

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 28th October 2021

★★★★★

 

“it somehow speaks of the horror and confusion of trauma, unflinching love in the face of howling pain, and above all, it’s incredibly playful and funny and sweet”

 

Having read his books as a kid and studied his plays in college, seeing a Philip Ridley play at a pub theatre in Angel seems absolutely mad to me. Like having Michelle Roux working at your local caf, or Radiohead doing a gig in your neighbour’s basement. That said, the Kings Head is no ordinary pub theatre, and Philip Ridley no ordinary playwright.

And, stubbornly transgressive as he is, it seems entirely apt that in Ridley’s latest production, at moments of palpable, almost violent silence, you can hear a faint R n’ B playlist, glasses clinking and raised voices trickling in from the bar behind.

The design (Kit Hinchcliffe) is tantalisingly bare: a shiny white floor and plain white backdrop, along with costumes of white tops and grey trousers. No furniture or small props or even a button on a cardi to fiddle with. Just two characters, Man and Woman, and their rich, almost impenetrable fantasy existence.

I feel myself putting off talking about the actual play itself because I don’t really know how to describe it. At once a game of ‘Fantasy Yes’- we’ve been shipwrecked, says man. Yes, with only hundreds of monkeys for company, says woman. Yes, except that time a giant serpent came and ate me whole and I stabbed it to death from the insides, says man. Yes, says woman, that was my great, great aunt, and I too have serpent blood in me. Yes, well, says man, I’ve led aliens into battle against their enemies, and so the monkeys think I am the messiah. And so on. This, spliced with intensely sexual but equally opaque talk of lubricated grenades and castrating garden sheers, and a surprisingly normal story about an eighteenth birthday party, makes up this seventy-minute straight-through. Despite this sounding unbearably inaccessible, through its opacity, it somehow speaks of the horror and confusion of trauma, unflinching love in the face of howling pain, and above all, it’s incredibly playful and funny and sweet.

In his programme notes, director Max Marrion talks about how skilled our two principals, Adeline Waby and Jaz Hutchins, are at dealing with Ridley’s particular flavour of language, story and imagery. This is mildly put considering their ability to express both humour and passion in this otherwise abstruse text. They embody both the poetic and the realistic; unafraid to be ridiculous, fighting with invisible swords, jumping from one invisible rock to the next, giving each other explosive orgasms with grenades. Equally, they’re two awkward teenagers getting ready for a party, nervously flirting and dancing like idiots. Their chemistry is complicated; it feels full of experience and genuine intimacy.

Ben Lerner once said of John Ashbery’s poetry that while reading, “they always felt as if they were making sense, but when you looked up from the page, it was impossible to say what sense has been made.” I’d say the same of Tender Napalm. There’s no way for me to convey its message, except to tell you to see it and try to explain it yourself.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Mark Senior

 


Tender Napalm

King’s Head Theatre until 20th November

 

Other shows reviewed this year by Miriam:
Aaron And Julia | ★★½ | The Space | September 2021
Tarantula | ★★★★ | Online | April 2021
My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | June 2021
Lava | ★★★★ | Bush Theatre | July 2021
Reunion | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | May 2021
The Narcissist | ★★★ | Arcola Theatre | July 2021
White Witch | ★★ | Bloomsbury Theatre | September 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Moonfleece – 3 Stars

Moonfleece

Moonfleece

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 27th March 2018

★★★

“Jaz Hutchins gives a stunning performance and makes the most of Ridley’s writing”

 

Novelist and playwright Philip Ridley has been cited as a pioneer of ‘in-yer-face’ theatre. Indeed his 1991 debut play The Pitchfork Disney was considered by many to have influenced the development of that style of work. In 2010 Ridley’s Moonfleece caused controversy when a Dudley arts centre cancelled a run as it felt the content “includes characters and themes of a political and potentially discriminatory nature”. The premise of the work is based around a gay relationship plus the advocates and victims of racism and homophobia. It traces a family with far right politics and the highly destructive and damaging results it eventually has on them.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Lidless Theatre are reviving Moonfleece in the compact stagespace studio at The Pleasance, London. Part of the project is supported by the Islington Youth Council who are serious about tackling the adverse impact hate crime has had on their community.

Upon entering the theatre it is clear the audience is going to feel part of the action, being up close and personal to the characters in the dilapidated East End tower block squat flat that the action will centre in. The set has two graffiti covered walls and the room is littered with debris and the seating is on two sides of the stage.

We are quickly introduced to the main character of the play – Curtis (Jamie Downie) a troubled young man who is part of a family hell-bent on spreading their fascist views to the surrounding neighbourhood. He returns uninvited to his old home with two of his henchman Tommy (Josh Horrocks) and the shaven headed unstable Gavin (Joshua Dolphin). They are dressed smartly, yet menacingly, in sharp grey suits with St George’s cross lapel badges on them. They are there for a séance in search of his lost brother’s ghost and over the next ninety minutes, we are introduced to a total of eleven characters who slowly add to the story that swings from shock violence to touching sadness. The main story is that of a dead brother who was banished by Curtis’ stepfather because of his sexual orientation. Though as with many Ridley plays, all is not what it initially seems.

When eventually the green haired wheelchair bound spiritual medium Nina (Adeline Waby) arrives the stage is ready for a showdown. There are a few characters that are arguably superfluous to the story but no doubt Ridley felt a reasonable need to include these to add both humour and further tension. The pace and substance of the play change when Zak arrives. Jaz Hutchins gives a stunning performance and makes the most of Ridley’s writing. It not only clarifies the story but it changes the pace and substance of the play.

Director Max Harrison has done well to revive this important piece of work, to fit so many characters into such a small space and to keep the pace moving well throughout. Designer Kit Hinchcliffe’s set makes the audience feel as though they really are in a squat. The lighting from Katy Gerard is basic though effective as is the sound design by Annie May Fletcher.

Overall this was a good showing of the play and as usual with Philip Ridley there is much to consider about the content when leaving the theatre.

 

Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Gregory Birks

 


Moonfleece

Pleasance Theatre until 15th April

 

Related
Vincent River | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | March 2018

 

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