A one-woman show performed by Australian Amanda Santuccione, Twenty Minutes To Nine is an autobiographical exploration of Amanda’s life and, in particular, how it has been affected and shaped by death. It forms part of the "Death on the Fringe" strand, which aims to promote more openness about death, dying, and bereavement in Scotland.
The event is structured as a storytelling narrative, broken up by several musical interludes and scripted performance pieces. The narrative style is informal and welcoming, and well suited to the small venue; it creates a level of intimacy that would be lost in a larger setting.
The show begins as Santuccione recalls her childhood, and her relationships with her siblings and parents. But this seemingly happy life was shattered by the suicide of someone close, when Santuccione was in her twenties. This appears to be a watershed moment, with her life split into a "before" and an "after", and it is the "after" that takes up the majority of the performance.
Death is almost always tragic, but suicide has always seemed somehow different. It is this difference that Santuccione focusses on, as the show compares the diversity of reactions and grief in response to different bereavements. Suicide poses unanswerable questions: how?, why?, is there anything that I could have done? But death from age or disease may be perceived as easier to accept, and it doesn’t create as many uncomfortable doubts.
A loop pedal is used on several occasions, building different atmospheres for more structured, impactful moments. However, the setting-up of the loops broke the narrative flow, and the payoff was not always worth the disruption. More successful was the wistful use of guitar and accordion, to highlight and underscore memories of her musical family – with the short pieces offering the audience time to reflect on the story being told.
Twenty Minutes to Nine is an engaging and thought-provoking piece about the impact of death and suicide. It is a sensitive subject, and Amanda Santuccione deals with it well, asking questions and seeking understanding to remove some of the stigma surrounding the issues. Her individual experiences and perspective allow for an emotional journey – yet it deftly diffused with comedic moments, which prevent the show from lapsing into the moribund and depressing event you might fear it could be.