My Best Dead Friend at Riverside Theatres

Get your friends together for a night out with a special one-hour comedy theatre show based on real life events.

December 1998. Dunedin, New Zealand. High summer in a town where there isn’t a lot to do. This is a comedy about death, revolution, unfulfilled love, and a possum.

A hit around the world with seasons in Melbourne, Perth, Edinburgh and it’s homeland of New Zealand, don’t miss this award-winning, heart-warming coming of age story all about friendship.

Rosie spoke with creator and performer Anya Tate-Manning about what inspired her to create this work and why we should be seeing this show. Read the full interview below:

Part stage-play and part stand-up, My Best Dead Friend is a comedy about death, revolution, unfulfilled love, and a possum. What inspired the creation of this work?


The show is a celebration of friendship and youthful optimism, born out of the loss of a close friend. The stories of the show are all true, but only really seemed significant after one of us was gone. I wanted to find a way to talk about grief onstage without it being heavy or difficult, but joyful and irreverent. I wanted to make a show that celebrated friendship, rather than mourned over the loss. I guess I wanted to focus on the good bits - the stuff we are grateful for.


My Best Dead Friend has been a hit all around the world, winning multiple Fringe Awards in Australia and New Zealand. Why do you think a story like this has resonated with so many people?


After the show lots of people tell me about the friends they grew up with, or loved ones they have lost. Friendship, grief and loss are pretty universal experiences, as well as growing up in small towns and feeling like outsiders. One thing I love about the show is sharing these common experiences with an audience, as humans we all have common experiences and inside a theatre that unites us. Which is nice, when we live in a world that divides us, in so many ways.


My Best Dead Friend talks about some heavy subjects, including grief and loss, but does so in a light-hearted way. Why do you think comedy has become such a successful avenue for people to talk about trauma? How has it helped you approach these themes in My Best Dead Friend?


I think laughing opens our hearts, and allows to feel other feelings much more easily. Laughter is a powerful weapon against sadness and loneliness, particularly in a theatre, because we are laughing together, at the same time, and crying together, at the same time. I don’t think of this show as dealing with trauma exactly because it doesn’t focus on loss, it focusses on what we have. Also we deliberately set out to be irreverent and not too serious, so that the show’s not too heavy. Otherwise I wouldn’t enjoy performing it and I don’t think people would enjoy watching it. My director Isobel is a wonderful mischief maker and agent of chaos, she’s really good at creating lightness and joy, even in the midst of a show about grief.


Where do you hope to take My Best Dead Friend next?


There’s a great Arts festival in Darwin I’d love to go to - I hear the weather is very good there!


What do you hope to achieve with this show, and what can Sydney audiences expect from this night out at Riverside?


Lots of laughter and maybe some other feelings! 

I promise to tell a good story and my best show ever.  




Favourite production you have ever seen? 

Banging Cymbol, Clanging Gong by Jo Randerson


You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go? 

Finland! To see my family.


Dream show to create? 

Cats the musical with real cats onstage.


Plays or musicals? 

Oh I could never chose! I’m a massive theatre nerd and I love both! 


A hobby you have beyond the theatre? 



What’s next for you after this show? 

Making my next short film.

My Best Dead Friend is on at the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta on October 11 and 12 only. You can get your tickets here.

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