The work of British playwright Phillip Ridley is designed to provoke, to challenge existing perceptions and in so doing reveal hidden truths.
Even the title of his eighth play, 'Tender Napalm', is provocative. How can an incendiary weapon like napalm, used with horrific consequences during the Vietnam War, be tender? Because it is a play about love, which sometimes warms the heart, but also can set your entire life alight, for good or for bad.
We speak to Carol Lawton, star of Scuti Productions’ upcoming season of 'Tender Napalm' about this flaming good play.As the pioneer of “in-yer-face” theatre, Phillip Ridley’s plays are known to be controversial. As a producer and an actor, what was it about Ridley’s work that drew you to him?
Ridley’s work is certainly raw and at times controversial and fits well within the “in-yer-face” style and this play is no exception. There are definitely moments that will have audiences squirming in their seat but because of the unique nature of Ridley’s storytelling, a great deal is left to the imagination so it is as confronting as the pictures you can create with your mind. I believe Ridley’s appeal lies in his ability to engage all of the senses with words. His experience as an artist and a children’s writer creates fantastical worlds where the everyday is transformed into something colourful and outlandish.You share the stage with just one other actor, Mark Healy, for 80 minutes and there was no set in the original production; what sort of challenges does this present to you as an actress?
In our staging of this play we will have a set, I don’t want to give too much away but it’s inspired by memories and the dark corners of your mind. Ordinarily the idea of being on stage for 80 minutes with one other actor would feel quite daunting but the narrative flows so beautifully and there’s so much to work with that it feels more like a playground where we can bring our story to life! Mark is incredible to work with, he is a truly fearless actor and completely inhabits his role.There has been debate over the message that the play wishes to convey. What is your take on it?
Every person that sees this play takes away something different. It is fundamentally about relationships, so the message is the one that speaks to an individual’s experience. When I first became aware of the play, I was in a failing marriage so what I took away from it then is very different to how I see it now. I see a lot more hope and beauty in it now. It is both a romance and a tragedy, it is funny and poetic and sexy and adversarial, but these moments exist in all relationships.This production features an original score, written by Adelaide guitarist Moses Monro. Can you tell us a little more about that?
When our director Rachael Williams read the play for the first time she instantly recognised that it would work perfectly with a full soundtrack. Working with Moses is so easy, he creates original soundscapes that complete a piece, but has a knack of blending the sound so it’s never distracting. It’s like when you watch a movie – you don’t notice that the music in the background is adding to the tension and Moses is a master at achieving that.Can you tell us a little about the origins of Scuti Productions and your plans for the future?
Scuti Productions was formed by the owners of Kalou Models and AAA Talent Agency to explore opportunities for the creation and development of film, television and theatre that will not only entertain but provide employment opportunities for the talent represented by the founding agencies. In the last year alone, the production company has produced four short films, and they are currently producing a feature film and a TV series. This is their first theatre production but the future promises further forays into the theatre with some original works already scripted and waiting to go into development. Scuti are extremely proud of this production and privileged to present two strong, experienced and capable actors being stewarded by an excellent director. Together, we believe we are committed to deliver cutting edge theatre that will provoke and stimulate – more than just entertainment!
'Tender Napalm' plays Holden Street Theatres (Adelaide) from 19-29 June.