By Jen Bolsover
This is an unflinchingly brave show. Writer and performer Bella Heesom delivers a performance lecture on the subject of death – ‘A Logical and Philosophical Guide to Managing Mortality’ – in which she offers a 17 step programme for anyone coping with dying loved ones. It’s based on her own experience of losing first her father, then her mother, while still in her 20s.
If that sounds heavy, it’s not. Heesom flits between playing herself living through her parents’ final days and adopting a determinedly bright, positive motivational speaker persona as she outlines her relentlessly practical steps. Her fellow performer Eva Alexander does sterling work in managing the tone, gently underscoring moments of seriousness and pathos on the keyboard, and providing moments of utterly ridiculous yet very welcome comedy whenever required. The extreme silliness of the comedy briefly threatens to become irritating, but actually it’s a very accurate representation of the type of levity that sustains many people’s sanity in their darkest hours.
The characters of Heesom’s parents are lightly drawn, but it’s an effective treatment. Their words and rough sketches of them are projected on a screen, giving the impression of interaction while subtly emphasising their absence. Heesom herself gives an exceptional performance. She is sweetly vulnerable, disarmingly frank, and her writing is eloquent and witty without losing any of its fragility or rawness.
In a society that pays far less attention to the reality of grief than it should, shows like this are welcome and necessary. We need more radical honesty and honest artistry of the kind that Bella Heesom offers. She has created something very powerful indeed.
My World Has Exploded a Little Bit ran at Underbelly until 28 August at 13.10 (running time 1 hour 10 minutes).