7 Stages of Grieving
Lighting is important in this play in indicating to the audience a shift of shadow. This is particularly being carefully planned in sections such as Act I scene ii where the lighting needs to shift from Frank and the Sergeant to the entrance of Miss Dunn. Suitable lighting is also vital to ensure an appropriate mood. Because the play is episodically structured, flexible and simple staging is recommended to ensure fast transition between scenes.
7 Stages of Grieving is similar to No Sugar in the sense that it shares the purpose and the use of theatrical devices as a medium to propagate their ideas. It is written by second wave Aboriginal playwrights Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman who considerably experienced less unfortunate incidence and prejudice than Jack Davis. However, following the death of his grandmother in the early 1990's, Enoch experienced the whole sense of grief and the sense of spiritual connection the gathering of the community. This triggered Enoch's idea of creating a script investigating the theme of grief. In 1995, 7 Stages of Grieving became a national premiere and it wasn't long before embarking on an international journey.
This play is written in a non-realist style, exploring the grieving process in Aboriginal history as well as criticisms of recent social, economic and political issues. There are twenty-four short scenes, combined to form a collage. The solo actor who is recognised as " the women" performs a series of monologues disclosing the history of the Australian Indigenous people from " genocide to " reconciliation". The use of projections and alienation hints a strong Brechtian influence.
In scene two Sobbing? the words associative of grief and loss projected on the walls is reinforced by the crescending cries of the women. The crying reaches its peak when the word "desolate" is projected on, followed by " nothing... I feel Nothing." At this stage, the cry "subsides". This sort of simultaneous use of visual and aural devices appears throughout the play and is one of the key achievers in this masterpiece. The last projection not only demonstrated a change of attitudes since White invasion, dramatises the magnitude of the grieving that it reached to the extend of loss of emotions.
The burning of eucalyptus leaves and singing "a song for the spirits" in scene three Purification reminisces Aborigine's cultural heritage and their close connection with land and spirits. In Scene four Story of Father, references to people such as Pauline Hanson provide the evidence for the continuous updating process of this play.
Scene eight Family Gallery is inextricably linked to scene 5 Photograph by the running motif, the "suitcase". In the earlier scene, the women struggles to cope with the death of a family member and decides to heal by pushing their memories of them "into the shadow", or symbolically locking the photos away in the suitcase. In scene eight, the audience would recognise that the projection of the photos are those taken out of the suitcase. This suggests that the only way to heal the wound is to face the things that caused the wound and also serves as an advice for many those who "push [their past] into the shadow" and turn to alcohol, etc. In scene 13 Aunt Grace, the "suitcase" reappears again symbolic of the hidden Aboriginal history. Though Aunt Grace married a white European, she returns home carrying the suitcase and "throws the content all over" Nana's grave. This emphasis again the close spiritual bond between all Aboriginal people no matter where they went and settled in.
Black Skin Girl of scene 9 reminds the audience Aboriginal children's assimilation was not out of their own will. This is supported by her desperate "attempts to evade the [alphabet] letters" on her dress which represented white civilisation and forces and the Aboriginal song " Bului guli mie [black skin girl] Naia gigi Warunguldud [I will be strong always]."
Scene 12 Murri gets a dress is "delivered in the style of stand up comedy", which is another western theatrical technique. This monologue satirises the discrimination of Blacks even when entering a shop. They will receive a "special treatment" in the form of stares and whispers, " keep an eye on the black one."
In scene 15, the opening stage directions " the women stands strong" immediately establish her strength. The repetition of "grief" and "grieving" creates a link to the title of this play, suggesting that just because they are "grieving" does not mean "we're not fighting".
The following scene Bargaining is a single sentence criticises the White's abuse of their sacred land. " What is it worth?" the women asks after hammering a "for sale" post into the grave. For the native Australians, land was priceless but the white settlers abuse it for money and materialism.
The truth about the Stolen Generation is revealed in scene 17 Home Stay using piles of red earth sand as analogies for an Aboriginal tribe. " You always have to marry your own skin." Out of the eight piles of sand formed, they are either "your brother", "your cousin", "your grandparents" and so forth. Thus even when one child was forcibly taken away from this tribe, the social effects is detrimental as shown by the women's destruction of the sand piles.
Scene 21 and 22 brings elements of sarcasm and bitterness in though " Wreck-Con-Silly-Nation", which is further reinforced by projection usage. The packing of " the word Reconciliation" and "locks it inside the suitcase is a gesture of the worthlessness of this word to them because "what's the use in having a word if we don't think and talk about it?" This scene ends with "the women places the suitcase down at the feet of the audience", pleading the audience to take serious thought to this word and the actions involved with it.
The last scene Walking across Bridge depicts Aborigine's mixed emotions to this real event. The numerous "pauses" suggests their dazed responses to the huge " sorry across the sky." However, a hint of bitterness is detected by the last sentence " I guess we can't go back now," which suggests that the Aborigines would rather prefer to live their tradition way of life.
It can be seen this No Sugar and 7 Stages of Grieving explores the lives of Aborigine's during different times. Their portrayal of different themes through different theatrical styles reflects a changed and will be continuously changing artistic, cultural, social and political issues and interests in the 1980's, 90's and 2000. Ultimately, their shared purpose of telling real stories about Aboriginal life have succeeded in giving their group of people a significant voice history that will remain forever clear in the sympathetic hearts of most white Australians.
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