The first thing that surprised me about The 7 Stages of Grieving was that I laughed. A lot. With a title such as The 7 Stages of Grieving, laughter was not something I was expecting, but such is the extraordinary talent of writers Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman and the exceptional skill of performer Chenoa Deemal.
Directed by Jason Klarwein, 7 Stages follows the story of Deemal, beginning with the death of her Grandmother, as she explores her cultural history, present and future. Stories are told as if to an old friend, sounds, songs, smells all evoking memories – some funny, others heartbreaking – all stunningly depicted by Deemal.
What I loved about this play was the attention to detail and how Director Klarwein tailored the work to Deemal. The language you hear is the language of Deemal’s clan, the Thitharr Warra clan that is part of the Gugu Yimithirr tribe who reside in and around the Cape York Peninsula. The beautiful design elements are based on the rainbow coloured sands of Elim Beach where Deemal grew up and it is these details which make this a deeply personal work. But as Deemal talks of the pain of generations of displaced First Peoples, you realise this is not only her pain, it is a pain that is shared by many, a pain that does not dim with the passing of time.
I cannot praise Deemal highly enough for her performance. There is a depth of emotion and a strength of character throughout as the audience is taken on a journey, a journey that one day may have a very different ending to the one presented in The 7 Stages of Grieving. This is a play that every Australian needs to see.
The brief season of 7 Stages has now ended. More details are available here: https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/the-7-stages-of-grieving/
The reviewer attended the performance on 9th June 2017
Photo: Justin Harrison