as a writer and performer, Bella Heesom makes brave, beautiful theatre that shines a blazing spotlight on our common humanity, in all its raw, flawed fragility and breathtaking perfection.
with her unflinching personal honesty, bella invites her audiences to delve deep inside themselves, find the soft, shadowy parts, and explore them with curiosity and kindness.
Bella's bold debut play, My World Has Exploded A Little Bit, is part true story, part farcical performance lecture. An autobiographical piece exploring how we deal with grief, it mixes tender intimacy with aggressive philosophical debate and clownish silliness, not to mention an enchanting live piano score. It received acclaim from audience, industry and critics at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016, and was Highly Commended by the awards committee at VAULT Festival 2017.
★★★★★ 'profound and stunning'
Ed Fest Magazine
Bella is currently working on her second show, Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself, a piece celebrating female sexuality, and exploring the impact of the internalised male gaze on a woman's relationship with her own pleasure. Read all about it here. And help her make the piece by sharing your stories here.
about the artist
Bella began her creative career as an actor. After studying philosophy at the University of Cambridge, she trained at LAMDA, and has enjoyed lead roles and ensemble work in theatre, film and TV projects ranging from Elizabethan drama to action to comedy to new writing, in venues as diverse as the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe, and PEEP, an innovative pop-up theatre seating 16 in individual, peep-show style booths.
Here, Bella tells us a little about what attracted her to performing, and later to writing:
Why did you train to be an actor?
I was drawn to acting at a young age as a way of climbing inside other people's minds and seeing the world through their eyes. An artist I admire, Kate Tempest, has said that she wants her work to encourage empathy. I share that ambition. I love how playing a character can help me develop my empathy, and I hope it will do the same for the audience.
What led you to start creating your own work?
I noticed that the theatre I was the most excited by as an audience member was artist led work, where the person onstage was sharing something of themselves with the people in the room with them that night. I find that thrilling - to see someone take the risk of making themselves vulnerable; it creates something palpable in the space that brings everyone closer to the strangers around them. So I decided to make the kind of work I love to see. I figured that if I enjoyed climbing inside other people's minds, maybe people would be interested in stepping into mine.
Tell us a little about your debut play as a writer, My World Has Exploded A Little Bit.
It's about the battle between the rational part of my brain and the emotional part of my brain that took place when my parents died within a couple of years of each other. I had always prided myself on being very rational, and capable of keeping my emotions under control. I am incredibly reliable in a crisis, and this is helpful when you have a sick parent that needs looking after, but it turns out it's pretty useless in the face of actual death. In the play this becomes a battle between two forms of storytelling: a lecture so logical it becomes absurd, and emotional, poetic scenes; and a battle between two clownish characters - the lecturer telling you exactly what to do when the people you love die, and the assistant trying to cheer you up, and singing inappropriate songs about brain tumours.
You're tackling something quite challenging with the show. What sort of responses have you been getting?
Oh, I've been completely blown away by the response. We've had lots of 4 and 5 star reviews, which is lovely, but far more importantly, audiences are really connecting with it - laughing their arses off and crying their eyes out, sometimes at the same time. When we started out, I wasn't sure if people would be willing to go there with me, but they absolutely are. It's intense. I didn't want to take people on this emotional rollercoaster and then just abandon them, so I offer hugs to everyone after the show, and a lot of people really need it. It's unbelievably moving, the way people genuinely make contact with me. It's not often you feel a connection like that with someone you've never met before. It tells me that none of us are alone, however much it may feel like it sometimes.