What to say – what further words to add to the experience that is Tender Napalm by Philip Ridley, directed by David Berthold, choreographed by Garry Stewart and currently playing as part of the Brisbane Festival?
The built-in shock factor in this extraordinary piece of cerebral and visceral theatre lies in the words and in the way they are re-imagined and configured in tandem with the body at rest and in extraordinary motion. Sounds and energies are articulated, spun and reshaped to create the most wonderful and terrifying stories, the kind that are the stuff of a child’s daydreams and nightmares.
A reading reveals Ridley’s shocking poetical fantasies and that, in itself, is a rich experience. His writing for young people is evident in the text not just in his monsters and monkeys and battles that pepper the dialogue but also in the way the characters engage with their fantasies – improvising and blocking one another, weaving plots on the fly – playing. You can hear this approach at work in school playgrounds and backyards. It is only in performance – at play – that this text’s emotional depths and theatrical sophistication are realised.
This is a bold, energetic production that doesn’t let you slip away for a second and, as I watched, at times holding my breath, I was reminded of Jerzy Grotowski‘s words “The actor will do, in public, what is considered impossible.” That’s part of the thrill of this work. Continue reading Review: Tender Napalm – La Boite Theatre Company at The Roundhouse
Image of David Berthold by Justine Walpole
A couple of weeks ago, David Berthold and I find ourselves seated on a very lumpy couch outside Room 60 down the hill from La Boite Theatre’s Roundhouse precinct at Kelvin Grove. We have taken refuge outside because it’s movie night and, apparently, one of the worst movies ever made is screening inside for the afficionados of such things. We take our two (very nice) glasses of Pinot Grigio outside to enjoy the early Spring weather. It is, I think, a rather nice way to conduct an interview. A couple of hours later we head off after a chat that revolved around Tender Napalm, the play by Philip Ridley which David is currently directing for La Boite. We actually spun out over lots of things from opera to Berlin to arts funding and the kinds of audiences that La Boite has attracted during his tenure – he became Artistic Director in 2008. It was a good chat, all in all. Here’s what I remember of it; the notes helped.
I’ve known David for years, ever since he was Artistic Associate at Queensland Theatre Company way back – well, in the early 90s anyway. I’ve worked with him (for the first time earlier this year in As You Like It) and we’ve chatted on many occasions, but I hadn’t known till now that he is a baritone and an opera buff and that once upon a time, he wanted to be an opera singer. He confesses that his dream is still to sing Schubert’s Winterreise with all its ‘infinite meanings’ in German – but more of that later. Continue reading David Berthold (Interview 32)