First Nations' Grief in a One Woman Play
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"I think one of the biggest struggles we face as Indigenous artists is that we consistently have to break down stereotypes." Chenoa Deemal performs in a contemporary revamp of The Seven Stages of Grieving across the country.

First Nations' Grief in a One Woman Play

by Keegan Thomson See Profile
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta NSW, Australia
16th Jun 2017
First Nations' Grief in a One Woman Play

It takes a lot of guts to stand up on stage and perform in front of a paying audience, but it takes even more gusto to get up and perform in a one woman play. 

Chenoa Deemal, an Aboriginal actress from Cape York, is currently performing across the country in the acclaimed adaptation of the one woman play, The Seven Stages of Grieving.

Ms Deemal says the play is widely accessible and takes a profound look at Indigenous culture in Australia.

“It’s a great show,” Ms Deemal said. “It’s not all about grief, there’s lot’s of humour and lightheartedness.”

The Seven Stages of Grieving was penned 20 years ago by Aboriginal writer and Noonuccal Nuugi man, Wesley Enoch, and Indigenous actress Deborah Mailman, though the script has been reworked for a more contemporary audience.

The 2017 revamped version of the play also includes state of the art staging and lighting effects, which helps transport the audience deeper into the complex issues explored in the production.

Directed by fellow Indigenous Australian, Jason Klarwein, the play explores the themes of hope and grief around the long fought for issue of reconciliation.

Due to the heavy themes explored in the play, Ms Deemal said she's had to become forced and “show fit” in order to perform as a solo artist.

“You have to get “show-fit” when you’re performing in a play like this and that includes the mental preparation,” she said. 

“I used a lot of emotional recall and sense memory in order to have a deeper connection with the monologues.

“With content like this, it can be very taxing mentally and emotionally so it’s very important to look after yourself and get plenty of rest and downtime.”

Growing up in the remote Queensland mining community of Cape Flattery, Ms Deemal said she's always had a calling for the stage.

“I’ve loved acting since I was little,” She said. “Every year we did a concert for our families and the miners, it was then that I fell in love with performing.”

“I guess I stayed involved with theatre as I got older because I felt a deeper connection to myself when I was onstage, it’s hard to describe but I felt it was something I just knew would be my path in life,” She said.

Aiming to branch out, The Seven Stages of Grieving will be performed at a number of venues across western Sydney, including the Joan in Penrith and the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta.

These venues, particularly the Joan, cater to a diverse audience of primarily non-Indigenous Australians.

Even though the themes of the play may be considered foreign to some western Sydney audience members, Ms Deemal said the show will be loved across the region.

“Emotionally, it’s a very well balanced show and audiences around Australia have loved it so I don’t think the people of western Sydney would receive it any differently,” she said.

Despite now being a bonafide, professional stage actress, Ms Deemal said as an actress it is still hard to break through traditional stereotypes around Aboriginal and Indigenous people.

“I think one of the biggest struggles we face as Indigenous artists is that we consistently have to break down stereotypes. We persistently have to remind the rest of Australia that we don’t fit into the boxes that others want to place us in,” she said.

Chenoa Deemal’s performance of The Seven Stages of Grieving will play across the country, including at numerous regional venues. You can buy tickets by searching ‘The Seven Stages of Grieving play’ and following the appropriate links.

The next performance of The Seven Stages of Grieving is at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta from June 8-June 10. To purchase tickets, please click here.

Keegan Thomson

About Keegan Thomson

Keegan Thomson is an assistant editor and journalist for The QUO. Keegan has had his work published in The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald. He is a community-minded journalist who is always looking for the next story, no matter how big or small it may be. As well as working for The QUO, he works for a number of independent newspapers in Western Sydney including Western News and Nepean News.

More from Keegan Thomson


First Nations
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta NSW, Australia
16th June 2017