REVIEW: Avid Theatre Presents TENDER

Abandonment, emotion and mystery unfold

By Myron My

We all love, have loved and have lost: these are the times where we are at our happiest, but also then our saddest and most vulnerable. But when you open up to someone and plan a life together, what happens if your partner strangely disappears and you have no memory of what happened? Presented by Avid Theatre and written by Nicki Bloom, Tender is a tale of moving on when it seems impossible to do so.

Tender

The past/present/future structuring of the narrative is used effectively with scenes shifting adroitly between before the event, the night of the event and after the event. This gradually provides pieces of information to the audience to draw us into the unfolding narrative, and also shows the characters in different and revealing lights. This in turn builds on the intense emotional states explored throughout Tender, which would prove challenging and rewarding roles for any actor to take on.

Unfortunately on the evening I attended, Tania Knight and A.J Steele as Sarah and Michael never seemed to quite grasp the complexity of their characters, especially with the difficulties of Sarah. This was their preview night so understandably, nerves may well have been the cause here, but I felt there were not enough nuances in their respective characterisations and the ensuing lack of chemistry between the two resulted in lessened emotional investment for me in the audience. Hopefully the actors can find that spark as the season progresses, as there is certainly potential there. On the other hand, Josie Eberhard and Peter Hatherley’s portrayals as Yvonne and Patrick are highly convincing as the desperate parents trying to find out what happened to their son. Theirs is a very natural and instinctive dual performance that resonated strongly.

Despite its compelling premise, the prose of Bloom’s script is quite difficult to connect with its constant shift between full sentences and natural conversations to rapid firings of short incomplete dialogue. For most of the show, I felt this prevents the characters from coming across as real people going through a genuine loss, which was an additional pressure for the performers. Many scenes are also question after question, and while I don’t expect everything to be revealed, it is frustrating when you can’t even have one answer.

Tender is an ambitious piece of theatre, both in its writing and in the demands on the actors. While the promise of these  aspects in this preview performance from Avid Theatre is not quite there, as the actors become more comfortable with the text and each other, I am confident this will improve greatly.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 25 October | Thur – Sat 7pm, Sun 6pm
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: The Butterfly Club

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