WRITER OF THE GRIEF PARLOUR, JESSICA BELLAMY, TALKS ON GRIEF.
SEE THE GRIEF PARLOUR AT RIVERSIDE, 12 – 21 SEPTEMBER. BOOKINGS: 8839 3399
I have been working with Clockfire Theatre for the last 6 weeks or so as a writer. Emily (Ayoub), Gareth (Rickards) and Kate (Worsley) have handed over their beautiful production from last year, and asked a new ensemble of theatre makers, helmed by Jo Turner, to expand it into something new. It is a real privilege for me to work on this show, because writing about death and grieving is one of my favourite things to do. A lot of people don’t understand why I feel that way; why I have such an interest in something they would call depressing or macabre.
My answer to them is: we only grieve because we love. If society was made up of sociopaths and misanthropes, we wouldn’t need to make this play at all. Grief and mourning would not be a problem. We’d lose someone or something in our lives, shake it off, and go about our day. Easy, right? Luckily, and unluckily, the world isn’t like that at all.
When death happens to our loved ones, grief burns so hot and hard within us because we have dared to love. Because we have invested time and energy into another person, or animal, or relationship, or idea. Grief is what is left when a big passion inside you, another organ in your body, is suddenly ripped out of your skin and taken away from you, and you are expected to keep on living despite this empty space.
Our production has not been immune to the randomness and the cruelty of death and grief. Within our community of theatremakers we have been mourning a recent, very tragic death, and it has been difficult to work on the play concurrently. A big thought that runs through my head is: how can we represent on stage something as huge and endless as grief? Are we doing justice to the real human suffering of our loved ones by making this piece of theatre? Are we actually making anything better, or just making a work that we think the world needs?
I think these are all important questions to have in the back of our minds, and not necessarily ones that can be answered. One thing I have learned from this process is that it is really important to demystify death. We need to wrench the unpleasant and the ugly parts of life out of the bottom drawer of our minds and into the harsh sunlight. To see them in the harsh brightness of day. To realise that while these moments will test us, they will not destroy us. We only feel this terrible because we have lost something remarkable, and important, and it is only appropriate that we are hurt by that loss. Shakespeare said it well – that whole thing about “better to have loved and lost” – but that guy gets enough airplay as it is.
So let’s leave it at this. We grieve because we love. And the love is what will last longer.