Death by Elegy

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Review by Justyna Piechutowska

‘Elegy – a sad song or funeral poem in memory of the dead’

“Death By Elegy” written by Dick Gross, is precisely that: it brings both sad songs and a funeral poem together in a quirky and funny way to help explore the topic of death.

Harry and Gracie are a father and daughter that are dealing with the loss of a loved one – wife to Harry and mother to Gracie. As Harry tries to connect with his daughter, who’s unaware that he is sick and has not long to live, he tries to tear Gracie away from technology (i.e. her phone) and discuss with her death and the afterlife using Thomas Gray’s poem “Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard”.

As he enlists the help of Dorothy Gray’s Ghost (Thomas’ mother) to assist him with her son’s elegy, Harry finally gets onto the subject (all while Gracie is texting her ex-boyfriend about it) and starts conversing with her about death. Their conversation is broken by a series of funerals, equipped with beautifully sung excerpts from Mozart, Verdi and Fauré.

For me, this play explores love, death, music, poetry and the human response to death in a bit of a fresh way.
First of all, it’s performed in an actual church, which not only gives it a sanctified feeling, but also the acoustics for the songs performed by the Emotionworks quartet. As the Requiems echo hauntingly, yet beautifully throughout the church, they create a sombre ambience, which is only broken by the return of the dialogue.

Secondly, the play produces a surreal feeling, mostly set by Dorothy the ghost (or rather a figment of Harry’s mind), who decides to join them on the couch to discuss the beautiful elegy poem and the underlying meaning of the words used (and not used) by the author.

Thirdly, its sense of humour breaks up the morbid topic presented, and makes the audience ponder, in a light-hearted way, about a topic that isn’t discussed so much in our society.

I really enjoyed the characters: the kooky Dorothy that added a lot of dimension to this play by way of being the comic relief and also the opposite of Harry; a God fearing soul that believes in the afterlife; Harry, an atheist who, with the thought of facing death in the very near future, wishes he did, and who struggles with telling his beloved daughter the bad news; Gracie, a typical young adult, not really interested in thinking about death, but since her mother’s death, she’s forced to deal with it, whether she likes it or not.

Having a projector that showed Gracie’s text messages to her ex was a great idea, which made the play more dynamic. But the biggest impression made on me (that even elicited a tear from me), was the singing interwoven into the scenes that echoed so beautifully throughout the church.

I think this musical play is a great novel way to explore a topic that is all too well known, but not too often spoken about or even avoided, which we’re all going to face sooner or later.

It is a new approach for a taboo subject that will leave you smiling with tears in your eyes.

Death By Elegy Pic

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