Enoch and Deborah Mailman.
Shari Sebbens for the Sydney Theatre Company
Elizabeth Gadsby – Lighting and AV designed by Verity Hampson
sound designer: Steve Francis.
Theatre Centre Playhouse: 23rd to 26th June. 2021
on 24th June reviewed by Bill Stephens.
phases of Aboriginal history, Dreaming, Invasion, Genocide, Protection,
Assimilation, Self Determination and Reconciliation through recollections recounted
by an unnamed aboriginal “everywoman”, The
7 Stages of Grieving was first performed in Brisbane in 1996 by its
co-writer Deborah Mailman.
Since then this
one-person reverie has had a number of interpreters, Ursula Yovich, Lisa
Flanagan and Chenoa Deemal among them. In this twenty fifth Anniversary revival
Elaine Crombie, a Helpmann Award winning actress for her performance in Barbara and the Camp Dogs, picks up the
stage-presence, Crombie draws on her considerable stand-up skills and
musicality to mine for laughs not always apparent in the script, as she prowls
Elizabeth Gadsen’s striking setting of eight shell and bone middens arranged
across the stage. Behind these middens words, dates and images are projected
onto a huge screen to confirm the stories she is telling.
revelations which leave no space for comedy, Crombie draws on her own life
experiences to bring authenticity and power to her performance.
sorting through a small suitcase for cherished photos of relatives who no
longer exist, or bitterly scattering earth over the middens which represent
their graves, Crombie holds her audience spell-bound, awaiting the next
play for the horrors and injustices it exposes, The 7 Stages of Grieving also provides an absorbing and disturbing
theatrical experience, and Crombie’s performance in it is memorable.
since the play was written, while some things can never be changed, much
progress has been made to address those things that can.
It’s a pity therefore
that these advances are not acknowledged in the additional material which has
been added by Crombie and her director, apparently with the agreement of the
The play now
ends with the actor stepping out of character to become political activist and harangue
the audience directly to demand that it campaign for list of actions, projected
on to the screen behind her, which include – raising the age of criminal
responsibility to 14 years old – campaign to ban the use of spit hoods in
Australian prisons – and donate funds to Sisters Inside and Black Rainbow.
was no doubting the sincerity of the intention, and her performance was
enthusiastically applauded by many, there were others in the audience for whom
these strident exhortations struck a sour note and who left the performance
Photos by Joseph Mayers
This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au