Tiny Beautiful Things - Belvoir St Theatre (NSW)
Based on the book by Cheryl Strayed. Adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos. Directed by Lee Lewis.
Reviewed by Chanele Mao
Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills
Season 1 February – 2 March 2024
A play that offers direction and comfort that will surely bring delight and hope to all. This is one not to miss!
I’m a woman in my late 20s, and for the past three years I’ve been babysitting for a family. Two years ago, I began having a strange kind of affair with the father of the children, who is 13 years older than me. By “strange” I mean we make out about once a week…
And so begins the story of Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, based on the #1 New York Times, bestselling author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a collection of stories from Strayed’s real life experience as the writer of an anonymous online advice column called Dear Sugar. Sugar was the pseudonym for Strayed who read and answered her reader’s questions about the big and small, spiky and delicate questions about life.
Belvoir St's 'Tiny Beautiful Things' 2024. Images by Brett Boardman
Tiny Beautiful Things opens with the cluttered, untidy and humdrum existence of out-of-work and badly-in-debt writer, Strayed played by Mandy McElhinney. Strayed accepts an unpaid job of being an advice columnist for Dear Sugar, and as she tackles the mountains of unclean dishes in the kitchen sink, her inbox whizzes with incessant pings as the emails and letters arrive thick and fast. McElhinney plays Strayed with a beautiful embrace of warmth, light, vulnerability, strength and love. Sugar is the glue that holds the letter writer’s stories together through the ebb and flow of life.
As we meet each of the letter writers in the story, we are transported into their world filled with heartbreak, betrayal, trauma, despair and everything in between. Tiny Beautiful Things is a raw, touching and emotional story-telling at its best. The ensemble cast work seamlessly together, each with their own characteristic trademarks throwing light and shade into all levels of humanity.
The set of Tiny Beautiful Things by Simone Romaniuk reveals the interior apartment of Strayed, a mum of two young children, living in a home full of dirty washing that needs to be laundered, toy dinosaurs in the loungeroom that need to be neatly put away, and more ironing to be done. The usual house chores are done with aplomb as Sugar methodically goes through her inbox and answers each and every one of her letters with her loving eye, tough love, and kind heart. The audience gets to see a once messy apartment, slowly but surely tidied up and made clean again, just like how Sugar reads, responds and cleans up the emotional interiors of her Dear Sugar letter writers.
This is a play you will not easily forget.
A word of warning, there may be tears shed, laughs and cries, a familiar heartache as you watch the story unfold. Strayed talked about her writing style – she writes in a way that only she knows how, that is from the heart and from her lived experiences. By drawing from and sharing her heartbreaking life’s ups and down with her beloved Dear Sugar readers, Strayed is able to help others in their times of need by being unabashedly honest, kind and human.
Tiny Beautiful Things has been described as a balm for weary souls. It is a play you will not easily forget. If you are looking for self-help, a kind soul, and some direction in life, going to see this play will bring you delight and hope for the future. It’s not to be missed!
Tiny Beautiful Things
The play runs for approximately 1 hour and 30 mins
CHERYL STRAYED. ORIGINAL AUTHOR
NIA VARDALOS. ADAPTER & CO-CONCEIVER
MARSHALL HEYMAN CO-CONCEIVER
THOMAS KAIL. CO-CONCEIVER
LEE LEWIS. DIRECTOR
DANIEL EVANS TRANSFER DIRECTOR
SIMONE ROMANIUK. SET AND COSTUME DESIGNER
BERNIE TAN-HAYES. LIGHTING DESIGNER
BRADY WATKINS. COMPOSER AND SOUND DESIGNER
MADDISON PENGLIS STAGE MANAGER
CHRISTOPHER STARNAWSKI. ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER
ANGELA NICA SULLEN