I’m going to start this review with two facts. You may not like them and may resent me saying them but remember, they are facts. First, everyone you know is going to die and second, everyone you have ever met is going to die. Unless there are some huge leaps forward in medical skill, death is inevitable. And yet, somehow, people are often caught unawares when death occurs. Well, not any more thanks to Bella Heesom’s semi-auto autobiographical play My World Has Exploded a Little Bit which is having a run at the Ovalhouse.
As well as writing the show, Bella, along with the totally mad Eva Alexander, also performs the play. Bella is a really lovely and affable person who warmly greets each member of her audience as they arrive to take their seats. In a real effort to avoid spoilers, My World Has Exploded a Little Bit is part performance and part lecture on Bella’s 17 step guide to coping with bereavement.
My World Has Exploded a Little Bit is a really well-written show that combines the somberness of death – especially when handled by the British – with some really anarchic moments that both inform and entertain. The seventeen steps themselves are actually extremely logical and, whilst I disagreed with one of them – step 9 I think it was – I actually found myself nodding along with all the others. Speaking of that step, whilst it is obviously important to Belle, I’m not sure it was right for everyone so would have been tempted to take it or turn it into a sub-step for those who wanted it. But that is my one slight moan with the well-written script. Although I haven’t yet gone through Bella’s journey, I have been close a couple of times and readily identified with the steps I had experienced myself. Bella and Eva bring a lot of humour to the subject and ensure that the seventy-five minutes running time doesn’t leave the audience totally depressed by the end.
Although there are only two actors and the set is fairly minimal – a keyboard, a bench and a screen pretty much covers it – Director Donnacadh O’Briain makes really good use of the space and, especially with the marquee – trust me you will be impressed – it feels as if every inch of the stage is used well. I have to say I was really impressed with Bella who, simply by moving her glasses – aided by Nick Goodman’s atmospheric lighting design – flips between two very different personalities as she, and don’t forget Eva, take the audience through her journey and the seventeen steps in a comedic and, at times, shockingly honest fashion. This is especially true when the emotions really come out and Belle rails against a controversial theory on the reason why things happen.
This is a work of theatre, not a genuine lecture but by the end, I really did feel as if I had come on a journey, not just with Belle but also on a personal level. In fact, I would love a copy of the seventeen steps so that, when the inevitable day happens and I have to face the things Belle did, then just maybe, I will be prepared for what happens and able to cope just that little bit better. I’m not sure that My World Has Exploded a Little Bit is going to appeal to everyone’s taste but, for me, it was a really enjoyable show that starts with a handshake and takes the watcher on a journey to face and ultimately overcome their worst fears.
Review by Terry Eastham
Bella Heesom’s debut play is part true story, part farcical performance lecture. It tells a deeply personal story of loss and love, through a darkly comic 17-step guide to bereavement. Mixing tender intimacy and unflinching honesty with hard-hitting philosophy, clownish silliness and an enchanting live piano score, it takes the audience on a powerful emotional journey, shot through with jet black comedy.
Performed by Bella Heesom and Eva Alexander, and directed by Olivier Award-winning Donnacadh O’Briain (Rotterdam by Jon Brittain and Always Orange by Fraser Grace at the RSC), the show comes to Ovalhouse as part of a national tour following a critically acclaimed run at Underbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016 and a Highly Commended transfer to VAULT Festival 2017.
Suitable for ages 12+
Bella Heesom and Donnacadh O’Briain are Ovalhouse Associate Artists
Tue 23 May – Sat 27 May, 2017 7:30pm