Through ‘tiny beautiful things’, we can get through this thing called life

By Gill Canning

Tiny Beautiful Things - Belvoir Theatre /Brett Boardman
Tiny Beautiful Things - Belvoir Theatre /Brett Boardman
There may be some events from which we may never recover but support and understanding go a long way.

Cheryl Strayed has lived a life and a half. She had a turbulent childhood. By the time she was at university, her father had left and her mother had died. By 27, she’d started  and stopped using heroin, then hiked the 1,770-km Pacific Crest Trail on America’s west coast alone. Her bestselling book about the experience became a movie, Wild starring Reece Witherspoon. By her forties, she had two kids, and was writing an anonymous internet advice column called ‘Dear Sugar’.

A compilation of the letters she answered in that column became a book. Now that book has been adapted into a play, Tiny Beautiful Things, currently on stage at Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney.

Starring the popular Mandy McElhinney as ‘Sugar’ and a cast of three who play the assorted letter writers she dishes advice to in her column, Tiny Beautiful Things reveals itself slowly, entirely through reader letters and Sugar’s answers.

‘Sugar’ simultaneously cleans up her large on-stage house while dispensing her “best, tough, sweet and even slightly contradictory advice” to the troubled writers scattered across the stage (each actor plays multiple roles). 

Tiny Beautiful Things - Belvoir Theatre /Brett Boardman

She tells a doubting wife to “go, because wanting to leave is enough to” and another troubled soul that  “Nobody else can make this right for you. You have to reach for your desire to heal.” And slowly, through helping others, she also learns to help herself.

It is a little frustrating that the piece never moves beyond questions and answers but nevertheless it is heartfelt and moving and there are also plenty of gentle laughs. Particularly good are cast members Angela Nica Sullen (Bump, Mother and Son) and Nic Prior (In Our Blood).

Hopefully, if you arrive in the right mood, you will leave feeling just that little bit more connected to humanity.


Tiny Beautiful Things

Belvoir St Theatre

Until 2 March, 2024


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