Arts Review

Tiny Beautiful Things


You may have heard of Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl Strayed is a wife, a mother, a writer and an ex-heroin user and also an unpaid advice columnist called ‘Sugar’. 


Strayed found success through her debut novel Torch but rose to prominence through her memoir Wild: From lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which was supported by Oprah and was then adapted into a movie with Reese Witherspoon. She also took on the role as an unpaid advice columnist ‘Dear Sugar’ on the website The Rumpus. The column became legendary for Strayed’s intimate, brutal honesty, which drew from her own personal life experiences. 


Knowing a bit of Strayed’s work and having seen the movie Wild I figured the play would touch on some heavy topics but I wasn't mentally prepared to spend the next two hours focused on the heaviest of life's issues from miscarriage, drug abuse, life, death and the different tragedies that life throws at us. 


I am always excited to see the set upon entering a show because you never know whether to expect improv from actors on a baron set or a prop heavy set. The set for Tiny Beautiful Things is huge. Designed by Simone Romaniuk the set is the size of a small home with a full functioning kitchen, living room, outdoors area and stairs. The entire space is utilized magnificently as lead actor Mandy McElhinney goes about her daily home duties constantly cleaning, folding clothes, and living in the space.


McElhinney is exceptional as columnist ‘Sugar’ and her performance borders on a one woman show with her delivering five minute monologues continually throughout the performance. Her co-stars Sepi Burgiani, Stephen Geronimos, & Nic Prior play various letter writers and have some intimate, touching or hilarious moments addressing their current dilemma for Sugar to assist them with but I definitely left the performance comprehending how many pages of dialogue McElhinney must have memorised. 


Tiny Beautiful Things is heartfelt, painful and at times deeply emotional. I don't think that it is a performance for everybody and many viewers could be triggered by some of the traumatic content that is discussed, however I think most of us could relate to at least one of the traumas discussed and whether you are ready to relive it is one the audience might want to investigate before seeing. In saying that I highly recommend this performance and found it incredibly powerful and enjoyable with some genuine heartfelt and comedic moments. 


Review: Tom Harrison

Imagery: Brett Boardman



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