It All Sparks Joy begins when Dylan Cole, as Jeremy, pops up from behind the stacks of books and boxes that clutter the stage, grinning in rumpled pyjamas as if he might have been asleep there all along. It makes voyeurs of the audience – there’s been ample opportunity to check out the personal items on stage while waiting for the show to start, the half-empty bottles of prescription pills and wine among the clutter hinting at a darkness lurking beneath Jeremy’s cheery demeanour.
His self-deprecating affability let us off the hook as we warm to him; confessing his love of self-help books, Jeremy quotes from one after another, drawing us in with comfortable comedy before he drops the first of the laughter-silencing bombs that allude to the tragic events of his past.
It becomes clear that the glib humour and hoarded mess are coping mechanisms, helping him bury the grief that threatens to swamp him.
Jeremy hopes to tackle the chaos that’s on the verge of overwhelming his home by acting on advice given by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo in her books The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy.
Repeatedly psyching himself up to deal with the task – Let’s stop procrastinating! Let’s get on with it! Let’s spark joy! – while swigging from a bottle of wine, he talks us through the KonMari method while revealing more and more about the reasons for his terrible sadness. Continued banter provides full stops of laughter to relieve the script from veering into mawkishness; it’s a well-judged balancing act.
Beneath Cole’s entertaining script lies an intelligently-constructed narrative that authentically reflects the way people who suffer unimaginable loss cope with their grief. Jeremy is finally forced to meet his own head on, ending the performance the only way it can with a sadness made bittersweet by a trace of hope: that grief can be lived with once confronted and brought into the light.
It All Sparks Joy speaks to the suffering of the bereaved as they struggle with the intense emotions of loss, while the laughter reassures us that somehow, life goes on. This deeply human show was so absorbing it passes by in a flash. Recommended.
It All Sparks Joy is being presented in the Owl Room at Gluttony, in the Masonic Lodge on North Terrace, until February 23.
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