At the end of this show, our two performers, Bella and Eva, tell us that they are available for hugs if any are needed. At the beginning, they smile, shake your hand and welcome you in. The reason for all this solicitousness? These two are as prepared to play on your heartstrings as surely as Eva plays on her keyboard. And there’s a lot in store.
We are putty in their hands: one moment laughing, the next near to tears
The innocuous stage becomes the setting for the doubled performance of Bella, by turns the grief-stricken case study of mourning, and her brisk counterpart who will walk us through the “Logical and Philosophical Guide to Managing Mortality”. Providing the comic relief, dramatic flourish and excellent music is Eva, who is quick to earn the affection and laughter of the audience in her interactions with her cold and logical partner as we go through the seventeen steps of managing mortality. Veering between the framework of this sensible guide and the lyrical fragments of Bella’s father’s dying, we are putty in their hands: one moment laughing, the next near to tears. There’s some nifty and understated animations on the screen at the back which both enhances the pathos of Bella’s mourning and provides the point-by-point guide as a slideshow, but those with bad eyesight will want to sit relatively close for the writing that appears on occasion (as I learnt to my cost).
We learn about what not to do with a urinal, how to change a bed with someone still in it, and how to administer the correct kind of hug. The NHS anthem is another comic highlight. Much in this performance is bittersweet, however. Not only do we learn about her father’s death, but her mother’s suffering from multiple sclerosis and her death, too, and these parts are heartbreaking. Some might find it too uncomfortable in its honesty, but somehow the combination of death-related humour, lyricism and hectoring really works.
Gradually, the lines begin to blur as Bella begins to deal with her own ability to cope - to cope too well. She’s even made a Fringe show out of it. It’s funny, it’s charming, it’s absurd, and it’s very poignant. Highly recommended.