Review: My Best Dead Friend
This is a story from a summer in Dunedin in 1998 when the possibilities were endless for Anya and her best friends. They have jobs at a cafe. They have their own space to share. The Backstreet Boys are at their peak. Enriched with exquisite details about Dunedin and intercut with asides about the state of biculturalism in the deep south this is a beautiful show about friendship, belonging, happiness and sorrow.
Anya Tate-Manning and co-creator and director Isobel MacKinnon, with dramaturgy by Jo Randerson, have carefully constructed a story that combines the distant past and the past. It slips between laughter and tears, between the sublime and the mundane. It evokes the intense optimism of teenagers along with the sense of deep relationships that can be forged when there’s been a lot of time spent talking stuff with each other.
At the beginning Tate-Manning breathlessly describes some of the background to the story. Her speed talking sweeps us up into her tight-knit group of friends. A chalk board (set and AV by Meg Rollandi) provides the surface for what becomes a recognisably Dunedin backdrop. The pacing slows once the backstory has been filled in which allows us to sink into the glorious and too real world Tate-Manning describes for us.
It’s an emotional story, with all of the attending human foibles, told wonderfully. Bring tissues.
- My Best Dead Friend on at BATS Theatre as part of the NZ Fringe Festival to 9 March 2018