When Chenoa Deemal, began rehearsals for The 7 Stages of Grieving, she had her undeniable moments of self-doubt. Director Jason Klarwein was her steadying force. “I would say to Jason, ‘Why did you hire me? I can’t do this, and he would casually say, ‘No, it’s alright, you can.’” Having since performed the show extensively around Australia, it is a testament to her ability, the quality of the writing and the desire of audiences to hear these searching yet jubilant stories.
Written twenty years ago by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, The 7 Stages of Grieving, delivers stories that traverse the key phases of Aboriginal history. It encompasses tear-streaked tales of death and dispossession, to the abject comedy of being followed around a shopping mall simply because of your skin colour. Yet even in the darkest moments there are shades of humour.
While there are unusual challenges to performing in a one-woman show, Deemal seems to relish them. “Being on stage by yourself means that if you stuff up or go too far ahead, you can miss a whole line or lighting cue. There’s a lot of responsibility”. The wild card every time is how each audience engages with the show. “One night they might find something uproariously funny and another night they are a lot quieter and engaged in a different way. The audience are my co-stars.”
Deemal is conscious she is taking people on an emotional rollercoaster. “People have said that they come away feeling they have experienced something very deep and meaningful. By the end of the show you can tell that people have enjoyed it because they are loud again and they’re talking.”
Jun 9-10, Fri-Sat 7:30pm, Sat 2:15pm. Riverside Theatres, Cnr Church and Market Streets, Parramatta. $28-42. Tickets & Info: www.riversideparramatta.com.au 02 8839 3399
By Greg Webster.