Talking to Stephanie Somerville
Stephanie Somerville is rehearsing for her role as Jedda in A Little Piece of Ash, written and directed by Megan Wilding of Blackie Blackie Brown fame.
The play, shortlisted for the 2017 Patrick White Playwright’s Award, and presented at Yellamundie First People’s Playwriting Festival, explores the personal process of loss, grief and survival.
When Stephanie’s character, Jedda, learns her mother has died she is distraught and alienated. Believing that Lilly is following her and talking to her, she is unable to feel that her mother has really gone. Eventually she realises she must confront their past problematic relationship.
Somerville relishes the role and says she was born a ¬“drama queen and a storyteller”. When her mother convinced her to go to an after-school drama program, she found the place, where she − “not the best speller or great at maths” − belonged.
Somerville is still nervous about performing right up until the moment she steps onto the stage and then she becomes “totally concentrated”. Pre-play “nerves”, she thinks, are part of the process and being keyed-up can contribute to a better performance.
Her director on this occasion, and also co-actor, Wilding, also happens to be a close friend. Somerville thinks that while their off-stage friendship makes her anxious to give Wilding her best, their personal shorthand enables rapid and honest communication.
While the play is deeply personal for Wilding, Somerville feels a strong connection with the narrative, as she has lost a loved grandfather and knows the difficulty of finding a meaningful way to grieve.
Coping with the loss of someone you love, Somerville feels, is one of life’s biggest challenges, and Wilding’s approach, both heart-wrenching and funny, is an important contribution to understanding how parental death impacts powerfully on adult life.
April 12-26 at King’s Cross Theatre.