The 7 Stages of Grieving
Brown's Mart Theatre has released its 2023 program, offering a smorgasbord of quality theatre, music, and unique events and experiences throughout the year. Something the beloved Top End theatre has persistently done so well over the years is to present a program that challenges audiences, sparking curiosity, conversation and reflection. This year is shaping up no differently.
By Tierney Seccull
First cab off the rank is The 7 Stages of Grieving, a much-loved 1995 Australian theatre classic penned by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman. The gripping play centres around one woman tracing seven phases of Aboriginal history – Dreaming, Invasion, Genocide, Protection, Assimilation, Self- Determination, and Reconciliation.
Tahlia Biggs is a proud Barkindji and Ngiyampaa woman, and the one tasked with delivering the powerful hour-long performance. Although confronting, the actor says it’s an honour to deliver these hard-truth messages to today’s audiences.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity. It’s frustrating that we have to keep telling these stories, nearly 30 years on, but I think it’s just a very big privilege. There’s some heavy stuff, which is very triggering and very much hits close to home, but there’s such a power in it as well, being in control of the narrative. I think that’s just such a big privilege.”
The 7 Stages of Grieving is a poignant, vibrant account into what it means to be an Aboriginal woman in contemporary Australia. And despite themes that are heavy at times, it’s an expression of strength and survival, performed with humour and joy.
The play is directed by Australian actor and playwright Jada Alberts, and Biggs says they’ve been a true inspiration to work with.
“Jada’s been amazing, it’s been really, really cool to work with them. They’ve got such a cool perspective, they’re really laid back and chilled, and the way they’ve been able to direct me, they always remind me of the bigger context, of a different perspective,” Biggs says.
“Very early on, we established that we wanted this to be a reclamation of space – we didn’t want this to be a black woman on stage feeling like a victim in her grief, and having a most-likely majority white audience saying, ‘oh wow, how sad is this for that black woman?’
“We didn’t want to feel like we needed to draw white people there, to get white people on our side, to then leave and do something. We want people to come into this and feel privileged to be able to witness this black woman in her grief, and these stories, and not feel like it’s us asking the audience to go out there and do the work. It’s not up to us to do that.”
Theatre performances come by every so often that are significantly powerful and significant, they really shouldn’t be missed. The 7 Stages of Grieving is one of them.
Photos: Charlie Bliss Creative