Review by Bella Wellstead
For many, packing up your childhood home is difficult. You disturb the dust on the TV cabinet as you fold mum’s knick-knacks into newspaper. You help the removalists peel the pink couch from the living room wall, exposing a scribble of sharpie hidden behind it. You rifle through the grime in the garage, unearthing package-preserved Happy Meal Toys, half-finished cosplays, and…
The collection of journals that entomb the ghosts of your childhood, in your childhood home.
When Bea Barbeau-Scurla stumbled across these relics of her adolescence, she was helping her parents pack up their family home for sale. She had recently moved back in with them, in the hopes that their support would bolster her during a period of mental health decline. In I Don’t Know How This Will End, Bea admits – uncompromisingly – that she wasn’t certain of how that support might bear the weight that was necessary. Built on the rocky foundations of trauma: child of migrants, mixed-race, bisexual, and – importantly – mentally ill, both Bea and her childhood home have spectres dwelling within.
On a stool in the centre of the stage sits a stack of Bea’s recollections, compressed into colourful leather-bound notebooks. They are a pile of core-samples that preserve young Bea at crucial points in her early life. The comedian stands beside it, at a microphone, telling her stories to the audience. This is stand-up – her delivery is informal, friendly, self-deprecating.
“I’m a very anxious person.” She notifies us, pulling the mic off its stand and twisting herself to avoid tripping on the cord. She talks about being mixed-race, about her parents – respectively Croatian and Mauritian – and the ways they celebrate and obscure their cultural identities. She playfully jibes at her “bitch” of a sister, intimating the complexity of their relationship given the upheaval and camaraderie of their shared trauma. She explores a harrowing Halloween expulsion and laments an adolescence free from covert sexual exploits in the back row of a cinema.
Crucially, Bea indelicately reflects on her own experiences with severe depression. Her depression is one spirit which has followed Bea through her youth and into adulthood. She talks about diagnosis. Suicidal ideation. Therapy. As she details the complex history of her mental health, her healing shines through. Her account has a cheeky irreverence. She is sharing with us the farce of her endurance and survival.
Despite its complications, Bea clearly has a strong love for her childhood home and the family who occupied it. She takes pride in her cultural background and acknowledges the generational trauma that she has inherited.
In this hour onstage, Bea reconciles her relationship with her ghosts. She refuses to let her trauma define the home her adolescence – in all its cosplay-loving glory – called its own.