Anya Tate-Manning’s charming and gentle storytelling show is about the loss of a friend, but also more generally about the bonds that form between friends over time.
Tate-Manning describes growing up in Dunedin, a small town in New Zealand, with its long-drop toilets and noisy possums, its suffocating conservatism.
She evokes what it’s like to be part of a close-knit group of friends, and how they coped when one of them died, how they supported one another.
This is not really a show about grief though, rather about how death is a part of life, and how the people we lose remain in our hearts and thoughts.
Tate-Manning intersperses her discussion of her friend’s funeral with an account of a night in which her and her pals attempted to fill their small, staid town with poetry. As she tells her story, Tate-Manning sketches a picture of Dunedin on the back wall in chalk; she gets audience members to draw pictures of her friends.
To call something gentle might sound dismissive, but it isn’t. A show shouldn’t need to make its audience weep to be powerful.
That’s the case here. With its abundance of 1990s references, to the Backstreet Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My Best Dead Friend – produced by Zanetti Productions, the company behind the wonderully creepy The Basement Tapes – is warm, funny and sad all at the same time and Tate-Manning is a very genial performer.