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Tears and laughter in Babyteeth


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There have been as many tears as laughter in preparation for Danielle Catanzariti’s role as a 14-year-old girl dying from cancer in the State Theatre Company’s Babyteeth.

The play, directed by Chris Drummond of When the Rain Stops Falling, follows the last months of a 14-year-old girl, Milla, dying from cancer and the love and grief of her family.

“It’s very quirky and funny and it’s very heart warming and sad; it makes you think about your own life differently,” Catanzariti says.

Catanzariti is best known for her work in Hey, Hey it’s Esther Blueburger, for which she won an AFI award, and has also starred in recent local works such as Brink Theatre’s Land and Sea which was also directed by Drummond.

For Babyteeth, she has had to draw from her past to play a younger role. Despite being 14, Milla has one baby tooth left, embodying a childhood the character is trying to leave, and the adulthood she will never attain.

“Fourteen is quite a significant age for a female as it’s about finding your identity and discovering boys, so it was going back into that mind frame, and on top of that is the idea you are going to die in a couple of months,” Catanzariti says.

“Rehearsals have been quite full on –  there have been a lot of tears but it’s a great actors piece.”

Catanzariti says that despite the heavy content Babyteeth is not a drama. Instead, play wright Rita Kalnejais has tackled the issues with a light touch focusing on how people get through the mundane, while knowing their world is about to shatter. The play hinges on the opening scene.

“It’s a beautiful scene with the mother talking about their daily breakfast, and it’s ironic and funny, but by the end of the scene it’s the climax and I die and then we go back in time and meet Milla.”

The chance to work again with Drummond was also a draw card.

“You go into rehearsal and have a laugh and he has a great vision for this show; that was one of the  main reasons I said yes, even though he came to me and asked if I wanted to shave my head.”

Catanzariti, who is now 21, found out a year ago that she would need to shave her head for the role of the Milla.

Shaving the long curls from her head looks almost joyful, embodying the contrast between quirk and sorrow in the role.

“I’ve known about it for a year, that I’d have to lose my hair, but as soon as they turned the clippers on, I almost freaked out and wanted to leave.

“So I lost all my curls which was very confronting, but it is very liberating I think very female should do it; it’s an amazing feeling to not have hair.”

Also staged in Sydney, the play’s cinematic way of hopping from location to location will be tested in Adelaide.

“It’s the same designer as Land and Sea, Wendy Todd, who has a very artistic mind so it’s a huge set in the Space, and it’s a very interesting play to stage because it’s quite cinematic so there’s a lot of different locations, a train station, bedroom, another apartment.

“Wendy’s design is simple, but very clever and very beautiful so I think it will work very well to progress the story so there are not too many gaps.”

Presented by the State Theatre Company, Babyteeth is on at the Space Theatre from August 16 – September 7. Tickets here.

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