Writer: Bella Heesom
Director: Donnacadh O’Brain
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
We are all going to die Bella Heesom informs us, everyone in this very theatre is going to die. It’s not some threat, just a statement of fact in learning how to face mortality.
It’s a frankness that peppers Heesom’s partly autobiographical tale of the death of both her parents, My World Has Exploded A Little Bit. Partly darkly comic TED Talk on the 17step ‘A Logical, Philosophical Guide to Managing Mortality’.
The tragicomedy mix may seem initially odd, but it proves to be a cathartic device, for both Heesom and for the audience. Slightly off the wall sidekick Eva Alexander accompanies Heesom with musical and comedy interjections that provide both a much-needed relief but also heighten the emotional impact of the more reflective sequences.
Alexander embodies the difficult questions we are all afraid to ask, her lack of self-editing forcing those unsaid lines to be said. It’s a concept echoed by the staging, much of the difficult conversation between a dying parent and child replaced by projected words reminiscent of a silent movie.
Heesom and Alexander’s chemistry is evident throughout, each knowing when to pull focus and allow the drama to flow. It is, of course, deeply moving, with Heesom’s anguished grief at the loss of her father and the delayed grief over the subsequent loss of her mother harrowing to watch. It is, however, a cathartic experience. Heesom’s PowerPoint guide may seem initially glib, but alongside the cleverly constructed humour, there are nuggets of truth that resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one. The 17 coping steps may be extreme but like any good self-help programme, there are elements anyone can adapt from them.
At the end Heesom offers hugs to those who need them, it may be a step in her guide but the opportunity to share a few seconds hug is both powerful and transformative, a recognition of thanks but also a shared understanding of a shared pain.
A touching, moving and yet surprisingly uplifting debut play from Heesom.
Reviewed on 5 June 2017
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