By Eric Scott
PICTURE: The star Chenoa Deemal and the writer, QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch.
The 7 Stages of Grieving
By Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman
Directed by Jason Klarwein
Grin and Tonic Troupe production
Qld Theatre Company presentation
Bille Brown Studio
Season: March 17-31. Bookings: 1800 355 528 or www.queenslandtheatreco.com.au duration 55 minutes.
What a beautiful piece of theatre this is. This fifty-five minutes of Aboriginal story-telling by an engaging young actor was written by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman 20 years ago but has crossed the years well and still resonates strongly.
The play tells stories of struggles and injustice mingled with joyous tales and mixes tears and laughter in a truly engaging fashion.
Of course there was some updating as political times have changed. And the well-delivered political gags brought howls of laughter from the audience. Later there was the insertion of Kevin Rudd’s “sorry” speech to Parliament.
We might remember it for its historical content, but the way Chenoa Deemal told it showed how much it actually meant to the people it was aimed at. I don’t think I have been so moved by the deliverance of a political speech in years.
Chenoa’s range of emotions was extraordinary. She was the young girl remembering grandma’s funeral and the food and drink and celebration of life that accompanied it; she walked with the stolen generation, even greeted Captain Cook with his Union Jack and “Terra Nullius”.
She joined in the grieving for an Aboriginal death in police custody and was with the silent protesters in Brisbane’s Musgrave Park and followed the protests against police brutality. She was family member, a lover of country and land, and a suburban fringe dweller. She switched her mood from a giggling girl to frustrated adult and tearful bereaved. She laughed and cried as the stories unfolded.
It was a fine interpretation of an excellent script.
And all this on a stage bare except for a pile of sand that hid magic bags filled with fascinating facts, a box filled with old photos and a battered suitcase. But there was some brilliant projection work from Justin Harrison that blew black and white newsreel images across the entire width of the studio plus atmospheric lighting from Daniel Anderson.
That truly enhanced Chenoa’s performance of a script, which although reaching deep into the heart of Aboriginal issues was never a “poor bugger me”. It never preached and was never angry.
The issues were explored with fact and humour and occasional deep sadness as culture and tradition had been whittled away over the years. It is a play that explains many things and clears up many misunderstandings.
I have never seen the subject of the Stolen Generation and its effect on Aboriginal life or the devastation it caused explained so clearly and can now more understand the pain of the times.
This is a play that is utterly delightful in language, performance, and significance. It’s short and sweet as well as being an exhilarating experience. Go and see it.