My World Has Exploded A Little Bit

Bella Heesom
VAULT Festival

Bella Heesom (right) and Eva Alexander

My World Has Exploded A Little Bit is a show of contradictions.

It made me laugh. It made me cry. I liked the music. I disliked the songs. There are scenes of significance and meaning and scenes… you get the picture.

Part autobiographical storytelling, part mock lecture on managing mortality, the show presents two parallel views of coping with the passing of a loved one.

No matter your age or the circumstances, you are never really ready for the death of a parent, and here we see how writer/performer Bella Heesom had to face the passing of her father, fast-tracked by the fiercest of brain tumours, whilst she was in her mid-twenties.

The autobiographical storytelling scenes that illustrate the lecture are the stronger pieces of writing. Moving, often understated, Heesom's script is full of the detail that makes her story so truthful.

She paints a vivid picture using simple but effective imagery that anyone can relate to. These scenes are played out in front of simple projected sketches that indicate the changes of scene—a park, a train station, a hospital—milestones in the journey from diagnosis to death.

For the lecture side of the show, Heesom becomes a self–help guru for which she dons a pair of specs and adopts a know–it–all, jolly persona.

In this guise, she drums into us the inevitability of proceedings and guides us through the 17 steps to survival. Feel helpless, we are ordered with a smile, it is a key step (number 5) and anyway it is unavoidable.

The unremitting distress of Heesom the daughter is counter–balanced by these often comic interludes where we are forced to face hard truths.

The pairing of matter of fact instructions with deeply human realities is a powerful device however I find it diminished by the clowning between tutor and inept assistant. I should have paid more attention to the blurb which says “…with philosophy, music and silliness”.

The assistant is played well by Eva Alexander who, as herself, provides some narration and performs the compositions of Anna O'Grady on keyboard.

Bella Heesom's is an intensely moving story which she tells without self–pity. Also skilled as a performer, she has a quiet strength though she can also let rip and her tirade against the injustice of suffering had me holding my breath.

This is a profoundly personal work and you couldn’t want for a more honest performance.

VAULT Festival continues to 5 March.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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