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Brief Encounter with ... Tender Napalm star Tom Byam Shaw

Actor Tom Byam Shaw is currently starring as 'Man' in Supporting Wall's acclaimed revival of Philip Ridley's Tender Napalm, which recently returned to Southwark Playhouse following a national tour.

Byam Shaw (son of producer Matthew and actress Melanie Thaw) was nominated for a 2011 Evening Standard Award for his role in The Tempest at Theatre Royal Haymarket, and has also starred in the acclaimed Foxfinder at the Finborough and the Headlong/Hampstead Theatre production of Salome.

Tell us about Tender Napalm
Where do I start? Simply put, Tender Napalm explores the multifaceted nature of love - how high it can lift us and how low it can drop us. It will mean something different to everyone based on their own experiences, but ultimately it's a celebration of the power of love, whatever comes.

What attracted you to the role?
The characters I've played so far have been quite cerebral and this was an opportunity to play someone led by his instincts. I loved his powerful imagination too and the extraordinary places it takes him - like doing battle with a sea serpent the size of three double-decker buses.

Besides this, what’s been your favourite role to date?
They've all been fun but Ariel (in The Tempest at the Theatre Royal Haymarket) was particularly special. Working on Shakespeare with Trevor Nunn and Ralph Fiennes was a bit of a dream come true.

Were you a fan of Philip Ridley’s work before getting involved?
Yes, absolutely. As well as being amazing and original pieces of writing, his plays are gifts for actors because he gives you such evocative language to play with.

Was he involved in rehearsals at all?
Yes, he came in to watch a couple of run-throughs and gave us some really useful feedback. He talked brilliantly about where the play came from in terms of how we express our emotions and have our own language in romantic relationships.

The director of Tender Napalm, David Mercatali, is a former Evening Standard nominee like yourself. What has it been like working with him and co-star Lara Rossi?
I'm loving working with David and Lara. David creates an environment where you feel inspired to play and be brave, and Lara is so exciting - her energy is incredible.

Among the other directors you’ve worked with are Trevor Nunn, Jamie Lloyd and rising star Blanche McIntyre. How do their approaches compare?
Actually, their approaches don't differ hugely. They all work with infectious passion and help you to make more interesting choices for the character or in a scene.

Your parents are both in the industry – did they encourage you to follow in their footsteps?
They didn't try to stop me and that was all the encouragement I needed!

If you hadn’t been an actor, what might you have done professionally?
I think I would have tried to make it as a playwright - that's something I'm still planning on pursuing actually.

You’re being tipped as one of the next big things, what projects do you have lined up?
No projects lined up at the moment but I've been talking with some friends from drama school about starting a theatre company. The plan is to devise a show, get a van and hit the road - look out for us!