Nikki Bloom’s ‘Tender’ tells the story of loss and the impact of grief on relationships.
‘Tender’ is the story of the unexplained disappearance of Michael, who is beloved to his wife, Sarah, and parents, Yvonne and Patrick. The first scenes were captivating and forced the audience to grapple with Sarah’s fleeting memory and grasping for an explanation for what happened to Michael. The intentionality of the incompleteness of the dialogue, Sarah’s memory, and the plot set the stage for an evening that I anticipated would explore the power of memory by unraveling the secrets of Michael’s disappearance and the resultant grief. This is not, however, what happened.
Rather than letting mystery and the incomprehensible create a story of memory, mental illness and desperation, ‘Tender’ began to feel rigid as it strayed away from the impact of loss on the human spirit. In contrast to the powerful opening scenes, the work shifted gears entirely —focusing almost exclusively on the interpersonal relationships between each possible pairing of characters.
I was confused by the change in focus and found the portrayal of these relationships to be bland. Sarah and Michael seemed to express their love for each other in a way that was unrealistic. Lacking in the realness and complexity of an adult relationship, it seemed to me that both characters were in love with the idea of love, rather than being in love with each other. Perhaps the goal of the work was to express their love this way — as a childish world of disillusionment — but nothing else in the work suggested that their love was intended to be viewed as such. Perhaps the body language or interpretation of the script altered the intended representation of Sarah and Michael’s relationship.
Despite producing an underwhelming effect in regards to the simplicity of the characters, ‘Tender’s’ use of a non-linear plot was effective in capturing the fragmentation of a faulty memory, along with the fragmentation of relationships in a time of grief.
Hinting at the possibility of deeply investigating the alteration of memory, ‘Tender’ left me feeling that the complexity of confusion in the midst of loss was not fully explored. It lost the impact the show’s 2007 run produced.
Hannah Rundman, originally from Michigan, USA, is an arts manager and lover of art that breaks the mold of established mediums. She values eye contact and art that brings diverse groups of people together.
‘Tender‘ runs 13-18 October at the Butterfly Club.
The venue is not accessible.