New play looks at a family torn apart by sudden death


‘Grief is love that has nowhere to go’ – anon

What happens to an ordinary happy family when one member dies suddenly? How do they – how does anyone – deal with the grief, but carry on with life, particularly if there are children who need care and attention? This is the poignant and powerful theme of Sue Ashby’s new play, Sweet Sorrow, which will be staged by SNADS – Sturminster Newton Dramatic Society – at the Exchange on Friday and Saturday 21st and 22nd June.
The play, a bittersweet contemporary drama of love, loss and hope, follows the paths of Gemma, her husband Jo, daughter Sky and son Josh. It explores with humour and insight what happens to a happy, loving family, when cancer – in remission for four years – reemerges, and the household is tragically reduced from four members to three.
The impact of an untimely death on a young family is a challenging subject to dramatise. But can we afford to ignore it when unspent grief is a recognised cause of poor mental health?
This production follows a recent Sue Ryder Foundation study that found that 86 per cent of bereaved people feel alone in their grief, while 81 per cent of people reported that they didn’t know what to say or do when someone close to them was grieving. Sue says: ‘Pair the two together and it’s obvious we have a societal issue on our hands.’
The play, set in Sturminster Newton, is the most recent work by Dorset-based playwright Sue Ashby (Coronation Street, Families, BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Theatre), directed by Nicole Forbes, who trained at East 15, and whose credits include Vera Drake (Mike Leigh), Vanity Fair (Focus Features), and work for BBC Radio 4. With her late partner, Tony Benge, Sue has written plays for various local groups and organisations, including community plays for Bourton and Sturminster Newton.
SNADS recently attended the NODA South West Awards Ceremony to collect the District Achievement Award for its production of Rabbit. Described as ‘a theatre company that does not shy away from challenging subjects’, Sweet Sorrow is another SNADS production that deals with important and difficult events.
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