Thanks in no small part to the seemingly never-ending glut of ‘reality’ talent shows that have pervaded our collective consciousness over the last decade or so, having suffered the loss of a loved one, often in tragic circumstances – possessing a ‘sob story’ as it’s known – has become somewhat de riguer, something to be worn almost as a badge of honour. Platitudes are offered up, many to the effect of ‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through’, but on the whole it’s generally accepted that everyone knows what it means to lose someone.
But do we? Do we really? As with most things in life, we don’t truly understand something until it has actually happened to us. Even then though, when that something is the death of a loved one, it seems to be widely accepted – within our society at least – that we don’t really talk about death. Not really talk about it. Despite the stone-cold fact that everyone who has ever lived has either died or will die, the topic of death remains almost perversely taboo.
My World Has Exploded a Little Bit, written and performed by the brilliant Bella Heesom, tackles the subject of death head on, offering a 17 step guide to dealing with the death of a loved one. The guide – titled ‘A Logical, Philosophical Guide to Managing Mortality’ – is structured around the real-life loss of Heesom’s father to an inoperable tumour, source material that yields surprisingly but genuinely funny results. Using the simple yet hugely effective device of a pair of glasses, the play switches between the 17 point lecture featuring song, interactivity and general merriment (glasses on) and tender, heart-rending reflections on the final days and eventual passing of Heesom’s father (glasses off).
Supporting Heesom throughout, providing comic effect during the lecture and pitch-perfect narration and musical accompaniment during the reflections, is the wonderfully talented Eva Alexander, the chemistry between the two performers working extremely well. This is very much Heesom’s play though and, as the 17 step guide is recycled to cover the subsequent (and yes, once again real-life) loss of her mother, everything that has gone before is deftly turned in on itself and this remarkable production reveals itself for what it really is – a powerful, necessary, quietly devastating conversation between Heesom and herself. The fact that Heesom has invited us in to witness that conversation is an opportunity that should most certainly be embraced.