Tender Napalm (Phantasmagoria Collective) 2013 SummerWorks Review


In the English language, there are certain words you never expect to see together. And while these oxymorons may at first seem puzzling, they can often be quite thought-provoking as well. Tender Napalm is a critically acclaimed British play making its Canadian debut at this year’s SummerWorks Festival.

True to its name, this Phantasmagoria Collective production was heart-warming yet explosive – a juxtaposition of the contradictory themes of passion and loathing, allegory and bittersweet reality. But then again, love – which is the central theme of this production – is never straightforward anyway.

This two-person play by playwright and author Philip Ridley is about the narrative created between two lovers in their own little world. Each tells us a story, with every action narrated and every thought expressed. What starts off as a simple metaphor for how being apart from your loved one is like being stranded on a deserted island becomes so much more. Through their dialogue alone, the lovers constantly reinvent not only the parameters of their relationship, but their physical surroundings as well.

Spectacularly performed by Kyle Purcell and Amelia Sargisson, Tender Napalm chronicled outlandish tales of battling mythical sea serpents, planetary destruction and simian warfare to explore the idea that love is an endless struggle, but one that is always worth fighting for.

Purcell embodied machismo incarnate, while Sargisson was utterly enchanting: a mesmerizing combination of fragile femininity and unbridled passion. The chemistry they created together on stage could only be described as magical.

Rife with rich metaphors and allegories, the writing of this piece also deserves high praise for pushing the envelope and refusing to ever play it safe. Take the unknown man’s description of his lover’s lips – the apparent object of his erotic affection.

“I could slip a bullet between those lips.”

Indeed, it was the racy subtlety of such metaphors and the many successful attempts to mean a lot while saying very little that made this production thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

Above all else, what made this play truly memorable was the fact that, although it was filled with outlandish and fantastical tales, it never once portrayed relationships as fairy-tales where every problem gets magically resolved just before curtain call.

Fresh, daring and insightful – Tender Napalm is one SummerWorks production you simply must check out this season.


  • Tender Napalm is playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Ave.)
  • Show Times: Thursday August 8, 6:00 pm; Friday August 9, 8:30 pm; Saturday August 10, 1:00 pm; Sunday August 11, 3:30 pm; Tuesday August 13, 6:00 pm; Thursday August 15, 3:30 pm; Friday August 16, 8:30 pm; Saturday August 17, 1:00 pm
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth (located at 100A Ossington Avenue, first floor) Aug. 6-18 10AM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows