Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sugarglass Theatre, 'Tender Napalm': Concerning the UFOs

Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Nov 27-Dec 8

My review of Sugarglass's production of Tender Napalm by Philip Ridley coming up just as soon as my marine D.N.A. kicks in ...

"Have you seen the view?"

When uttered by the Man and Woman in Philip Ridley's play, this phrase seems to have the power to trigger an escape - an abrupt overthrow of whatever fantastical adventure the duo have submerged themselves in, whether it's the slaying of a monster on a post-tsunami island or a kidnapping by a U.F.O. As the play progresses though, the phrase seems intended for the audience. The view is clear: Ridley has taken a bazooka to this passionate relationship, leaving us to inspect the still-blazing wreckage and connect the dots like a furious constellation of stars.

The play begins with not-so-tender pleasantries. "I could squeeze a bullet between those lips", issues the Man whilst inspecting his partner's mouth with a miniature torch. A minute later she's describing how she'd like to gauge out his eyeball with a spoon. How violent our fascinations with the human body can be (we haven't even gotten to the part involving a grenade being placed in a specific bodily orifice). 

What manifests is a delightful and intimate kaleidoscope as Aaron Heffernan and Erica Murray's duo turn Colm McNally's gorgeous set into their private universe where disputes are settled with sword fights, tentacles and bombs things that go boom. Heffernan performs passionately. Observe how he physicalises a meticulous passage in which he does battle with a giant monster. Murray is crowned by lethal deliveries. "I don't like to boast about my incredible ancestors", she responds when her cohort questions why she hadn't bother to previously mention her descent from Neptune, giving her unfair advantage in a fight. Director Marc Atkinson navigates the action in part with his stunning lighting design, composed of golden and violet hues. 

The first meeting of the couple is the point which the play assembles itself towards, and it's the highlight of the night as the two realise the spark between them. For the strikingly violent visuals that the play evokes early on, its gestures of kindess are what stay with you. When Murray begins to distress at the presence of a lost child in their lives, Heffernan tries to bring her back to safety, encouraging her to enable another fantastical adventure.

Between this and the effervescent All Hell Lay Beneath, Sugarglass are divinely intervening in the conventional theatre-going experience. 


What did everybody else think? 


No comments:

Post a Comment