As part of Queensland Theatre Company’s Diva Program, The 7 Stages of Grieving is a one-woman powerhouse of a show, delivered with humour and heart, by Chenoa Deemal (originally performed by Deborah Mailman).
Twenty years after the show was first penned by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, the production has not dated. The 7 Stages of Grieving will never grow old or become tired of being played or heard. It is a production that should tour extensively in schools and regional centers to impart an important and shamefully neglected part of our history.
Presented by Brisbane’s Grin & Tonic and the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC), The 7 Stages of Grieving cleverly intertwines stories of aboriginal history including the stolen generation, silent protests, black deaths in custody, family funerals, and traditions. These vignettes recount stories of loss, grief, injustice, resilience, and hope for reconciliation in a humble yet profound way.
Jason Klarwein’s directs this production with a grace and dignity. The text is enlightening without being didactic, and Deemal’s delivery is light-hearted, yet whole-hearted and solemn when needed. Deemal helped to create an awareness of the poor treatment of aboriginal people without being preachy or pitying.
Set in the Bille Brown blackbox theatre, there was no set to speak of, but it didn’t need one. With the help of a mound of dirt, a suitcase, and clever projections, which jumped up out of a very important box of photographs (which nobody speaks about); was incredibly evocative in its understated simplicity. The mood created by the concentric circles of phosphorescent sand was transporting, and the projections, arresting.
While the lighting (Daniel Anderson), sound, and projections (Justin Harrison) were at the forefront of the design (Jessica Ross), it never overshadowed the performer.
Running at fifty-five minutes without interval, the show is well paced and even though the text still stands as strong as it did twenty years ago, some of the script has been updated to include Kevin Rudd’s ‘Sorry’ speech and other contemporary references including Abott’s “lifestyle choices” comment which on opening night elicited the most uproarious laughter of all.
But the cleverest line of the show was the tongue-in-cheek, “bloody boat people”, in reference to the first fleet. The 7 Stages of Grieving really does make you wonder who the boat people are.
The 7 Stages of Grieving played at the Bille Brown Studio at QTC’s Greenhouse studio till 31 March.