Comic books, graphic novels, videogames and animated films have always been serious business, from Magneto’s origin as a Holocaust survivor, to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. Even Godzilla was originally conceived of as the byproduct of nuclear warfare.
In I AM BEAST, Sparkle and Dark (one of our Partners in Sickness and Health) demonstrate the capacity of our imagination to provide an important mirror to our reality, no more how difficult it appears to be. I AM BEAST is a tale of bereavement, in which a girl, Ellie, and her father do their best to avoid talking about their respective grief, and Ellie regularly escapes into a world of comic books, where her sadness can take on an active (and aggressive) quality, and she can intervene in the helplessness which comes from serious grief. The reflection on bereavement and on (lacking) communication is powerful, with the young girl feeling the pressure to be ‘fixed’ and being unable to see anything other than the fact that the cure to her sadness (ie, the continued life of her mother) is an impossibility. With so little ordinary writing on death and dying (particularly from the perspective of children), the fact that Sparkle and Dark choose to engage with the aesthetic of comic book is noteworthy, particularly because it demonstrates the heightened or strained reality which is lived by those experiencing trauma.
I AM BEAST’s coverage of bereavement is quite extensive, and looks at the state from many angles – including guilt, blame, anger and silence – without placing things chronologically or conveniently. Instead of happily coming together with sadness being nicely incorporated into a person’s narrative of growth (as so annoyingly happened with The Last Tango in Halifax this year), in the end of I AM BEAST, the audience is still unsure how long this grief might last. As a person who has experienced significant grief myself, this lack of easy ending is probably the work’s most psychologically salient and relevant feature. (BL)
I AM BEAST, Sparkle and Dark, 6-31 August, Pleasance Dome Above (Venue 33) Please check accessibility with venue.
More on Sparkle and Dark:http://www.sparkleanddark.com/#!
Winston’s Wish (UK’s largest children’s bereavement charity): http://winstonswish.org.uk/
Hannah Eaton’s Naming Monsters (fastastic graphic novel on bereaved young adults: http://forbookssake.net/2013/10/07/naming-monsters-hannah-eaton/