SUDS’ Tender Napalm is an image of violent love

The fallout from love is always ugly. Phillip Ridley’s Tender Napalmmeditates on how young love can easily become damaging to both people involved. SUDS’ current production of the play, under the superb direction of Emma Throssell, shows this fallout so intensely it is impossible to look away.

Throssell’s direction is fantastic. The actors use every inch of the small stage they perform on. It is not the most inventive use of the Cellar Theatre, but it is incredibly intimate. The audience is seated so close to the action that one can hear the actors kissing and breathing, an experience so intimate it felt unsettling in the theatre context. A special acknowledgement must also go to Henry Hulme for the masterful sound design that underscores the play,subtly intensifying the emotions onstage before it crescendos into an angry roar during a violent sequence near the play’s end.

The actors in this production are phenomenal. Two characters, a man and a woman, are onstage for the tense 90-minute duration. Harry Winsome plays the Man with a viciousness that is, at times, carnal; forcing one to wonder if we are all capable of such violence. Winsome occasionally relies too much on his arms to communicate meaning, however, this is only a minor issue in his superlative performance.



Alice Birbara steals the show. She plays the Woman and matches Winsome blow for blow. She is able to oscillate between love and violence within an instance and illustrates that the line between sexual pleasure and pain is minute. Birbara has an amazing naturalism that would make her a natural fit for characters by Albee and Pinter. The chemistry between both performers is ferocious.

This is a fantastic production that is one of the best shows I have seen at SUDS. An intense, intriguing night in the theatre that shows off some of the best theatrical talent at USyd. 

Tender Napalm plays 18th – 21st May at 7:00 in the Cellar Theatre, Holme Building, Science Rd. Tickets are still available from trybooking.

Pulp Editors