BATS Theatre, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

20/08/2019 - 20/08/2019

TAHI Festival 2019

Production Details

Twisted loved stories: A series of monologues about love and sex. The woman who kissed a gnome. The girl who is also a bomb. The lady so obsessed with stationery she is prepared to kill for it. Or even worse: love for it.

Tiny Deaths is a beautiful and odd collection of love stories, all as dark as dark chocolate. Wickedly funny and sumptuously grotesque, it’s perfect for a first date. Or a last one.

Tiny Deaths is a polylogue. Written by Uther Dean (Nominated for Best New New Zealand Play for Everything is Surrounded by Water at the 2014 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards) it is being revamped for TAHI this year. 

Starring Hannah Banks, Stevie Hancox Monk, Brianne Kerr, Rebecca Adams, Maggie White, Mia Oudes and Freya Daly Sadgrove.

Trigger Warnings: Tiny Deaths includes descriptions of emotional & physical violence and sex acts. It is not appropriate for children.

BATS Theatre: The Random Stage
20 August 2016
Full Price $20
Concession Price $15
Group 6+ $15

Lighting designed & operated by Olivia Flanagan
Stage managed by Beth Taylor
Technical assistance from Lucas Neal and Dominic Flanagan 

Theatre ,

1 hr

Superbly crafted insights

Review by John Smythe 21st Aug 2019

The inaugural Tahi Festival has come to vibrant life with Tiny Deaths: a polylogue of eight extraordinary monologues, described in publicity as twisted stories about love and sex. Written by Uther Dean, the 2015 premiere featured 11 (or was it 12?) monologues performed by six women, three of whom reprise one of the pieces they helped to originate (the playwright acknowledges the input of the original cast in a programme note).

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘la petite mort’ (the little death) as “the brief loss or weakening of consciousness” and “the sensation of post-orgasm as likened to death.” In Tiny Deaths the consummation of love with sex is more often wished for, devoutly, than achieved.  A poignancy permeates the bizarre scenarios sincerely manifested and generously shared by an exquisite cast. The shocked laughs they elicit are counterpointed with profound empathy; no matter how unusual their character’s predilections, behaviours or experiences, we cannot help but empathise.  

Brianne Kerr (re-directed by Kerryn Palmer) reprises her office worker in rapturous love with Rhodia stationary. Her passion is hilarious and very compelling until her questionable strategy for convincing her co-worker to convert from a loathed alternative puts her in a compromising position.

The woman who is a bomb, as reprised by Hannah Banks (with Palmer re-directing), is riveting at emotional and intellectual levels. There is no doubting her belief that physical contact with her would be lethal. Apparently it already has been. The question is how did it come to this? And how perverse is it that all we want to do is give her the hug she so desperately craves!

We assume the roles of “Mum and Gerald” as our determined young daughter launches her illustrated quest to gain our acceptance and approval of her wonderfully attentive lover: a squid. Katie Hill (directed by Timothy Baker) pitches perfectly the crossing of the threshold from innocence to the experiential delights of sexual fulfilment, despite our instinctive parental resistance to getting ‘too much information’.  

Faith in each other’s integrity is important at any point in a relationship, especially at the vulnerable stage of making a move to turn desire into reality. This is explored metaphorically as Stevie Hancox-Monk (directed by Palmer) delivers her open letter to ‘Disco Star 69’, the only person ever to give her negative feedback on Trade Me. While it may seem remote from the ‘love and sex’ context, the question of reputation, of who is in the right or wrong in this publicly judgemental space, certainly resonates.

Being clad in togs and a bathing cap, and wrapped in a towel, is an interesting choice for Maggie White’s portrayal (directed by Sally Richards) of a woman’s co-dependant relationship with her deeply embedded tapeworm. Her mesmerising description of how this parasite has become her paramour is a salutary allegory for abusive relationships that become addictive, even when survival itself is a stake.

There is nothing metaphorical in the invasion of privacy and betrayal of trust evoked by Rebekah Adams (directed by Beth Taylor) as a woman who discovers her sexual prowess has been posted for all to witness on the internet. Although it is intriguingly and amusingly ambivalent in parts, given the opportunity to objectively appraise herself, there is no question her anger at further betrayal, and her consequent digital revenge, is thoroughly justified.  

As she proposes a toast to ‘the happy couple’, Emma Katene (re-directed by Tabitha Arthur) reveals her character’s innermost thoughts about all perfect couplings. It’s wickedly funny, wherever you place yourself on the single-to-partnered or happy-to-dissatisfied spectra. We are left to muse upon what she has actually said out loud and what she has kept to herself.

A wake-up alarm brings us the third revival from 2015, wherein Freya Daly Sadgrove (re-directed by Palmer) enumerates and sketches in 156 items on her to-do list for a typical day in her life. The methodical listing plays out in telling contrast to the disorganisation that begins with a logical mistake she makes in what she does before which on leaving the house to head for work. And yes, there is would-be romance in this one too.

There is no point in my adding ‘don’t miss it’ at this point as each Tahi Festival show is only on once this week – but most are ‘in the repertoire’ and some are currently ‘on the road’ or likely to pop up in regional festivals, so keep your eyes peeled.

In showing how satisfactorily insights into eight characters and their personal stories can each be achieved in 80 superbly crafted minutes Tiny Deaths has set the bar high for the wide range of shows set to play for rest of the week.


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