The Hero Leaves One Tooth

Kate Young
21st Jul 2023

The Hero Leaves One Tooth - KXT on Broadway until 29 July 2023

A woman anxiously walks down a darkened street, constantly looking over her shoulder, filled with fear that she is being followed. Armed with her house keys as a weapon, she’s ready to gouge any assailant dare they try anything. One thought races over and over “Just make it to the front door”. This is not fiction, for woman this is our every day routine. Men don’t have this fear, the fear that at anytime your life could be threatened just simply trying to make your way home. In The Hero Leaves One Tooth Erica Brennan reimagines a world where Mother Nature bites back and regains power from those that want to oppress, destroy and harm her.

Set in a small second story apartment, we are introduced to couple Neeve and a Felix. Both are nervously awaiting the arrival of their dinner party guest. There is tension in the air as roles have been reversed. Felix is in the kitchen creating more of a disaster then a delicacy. Having traveled abroad for the last month, Felix just wants tonight to be perfect, happy friends, fanfare food and 100 slides of the Italian countryside. As the number of guests escalates so does the tension between characters. It seems everyone here has a secret and it’s only a matter of time before everything comes spilling out.

The Hero Leaves One Tooth is a surreal journey that is weighed down with some very heavy material such sexual assault, sexual identity and gender role expectations. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its moments of humor, there’s musical numbers about Vagina Dentata a.k.a a toothed vagina, snarky gay best friends, an uninvited “artist”, a not so Russian muse and a locked box containing everyone’s phone that no one seems to have the key for. 

Erica Brennan comes out swinging with a witty script that’s ready to throw a few punches at a culture riddled with sexual violence and it couldn’t come at a more relevant time as woman’s bodily autonomy is under heavy scrutiny. Combine this with Cam Turnbull's bold take on the body horror genre, one that’s gaining much representation on screen and yet so rarely seen on stage. Camron has been able to capture the anxiety that comes from within. At the heart of the story, we have two women facing their own realities. One's body will transform through trauma the other through rite of passage. It's never quite certain however if these transformative abilities are organic, is it some form of mutation or is it mutilation? The line between weapon and folklore blur and the true source of fear is revealed.  And what could be more terrifying than our own bodies turning on us, what is supposed to keep us safe, is the monster keeping us trapped within ourselves.

The cast itself is strong, each bringing a dynamic character to life. Kira- Che Heelan, Michael McStay, Tome Rodgers, Cara Whitehouse, Patricio Ibarra (who I think stole most of the limelight as eccentric artist "Benito", providing most of the laughs at his spaced-out antics and willingness to get the other characters leave the bullshit and confront their truths), Claudia Shnier and David Woodland.  

The strength of this play however would not be complete without mentioning some other players. Lyricist and Composer Jake Nielson gave us three very unique original songs in three very different styles, from the folklore shanty Dentata

" The butcher, the baker, they both had a fling.

The bait man and blacksmith, the cobbler and King:

They all pushed their luck; they all took a stand

And they all returned home with their dick in their hand."

To the closing number Once Bitten which is a sweet old timey number. My favorite however was Here I Come brilliantly performed by Cara Whitehouse. This track to me played homage to the campy, queer classic musicals that I grew up on. Picture if the opening title sequence to Rocky Horror was performed by Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors, now replace those lips with sinister mouths that Nash and bite and a Venus fly trap with a very angry vagina, and you might get some idea.

Light design by Jasmin Borsovsky, sound designer Zac Saric and Video Design by David Molloy all worked in a harmonious melting pot to create a world that was raw, unusual, and yet had a foot firmly in reality. At one stage there was a projection of red silk bed sheets, beckoning me like a lapping shore made of fire, it had me transfixed.

There is a lot here in this play (vaginal dentistry just being the very tip of the iceberg) and I feel that it may not land with some viewers, I did feel a slight lull myself when events in the play hit came to a crescendo, what was left was a little anti climatic and pauses between dialogue became too long. However, I do put this down to opening night jitters. Strong performances by Kira and David however saved the day by making a wonderful recovery, pulling audience through to the end, as they slow danced us into the darkness, we left the play yearning that some peace would come to these two.  The Hero Leaves One Tooth is a unique play, plainly for the fact that we rarely as woman get the chance to regain power and flip the narrative. A lot of serious question will be raised throughout the night but there is also a lot of fun and enjoyment to be had, audiences will enjoy if they just embrace this strange world created by some very talented people.

Photos by Clare Hawley