The ice block, which hovers over the stage suspended by “seven strong ropes,” is a symbol of the vulnerability of Aboriginal communities in modern-day Australia. At the beginning of the play, a full block of ice hangs above the stage underneath hot stage lights. That block remains onstage, melting, throughout the action of the play, which describes the horrific suffering that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have experienced at the hands of colonialism and white supremacy. As the Woman describes the horrors that she, her family, and her community has faced, the ice block continues to melt before the audience’s eyes. In this way, the suffering that the Woman describes connects visually to the way that the ice corrodes under the hot lights, which represent racism, poverty, abuse, and inequality—forces that slowly but surely melt Aboriginal communities down to fractions of their former selves.
It's also worth noting the seven ropes that hold the ice above the stage. The number seven evokes the titular seven stages of grieving: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. It’s complex that the block of ice (which represents indigenous communities) is held up with ropes that symbolize grief; perhaps this suggests that shared grief is part of what holds indigenous communities together, but perhaps, since the ropes hold the ice closer to the harsh stage lights, the stage setup is a visual metaphor for the way in which shared grief among indigenous communities intensifies the trauma and suffering of their day-to-day lives. In other words, it’s possible to read the fact that the ropes speed the melting by holding the ice closer to the lights as a metaphor for the way in which grief makes the effects of racism, poverty, and other suffering even more destructive and traumatic. Over the course of the play, the ice block melts onto the red earth below—red earth that is primarily the grave of the Woman’s grandmother. The ice melting directly onto a grave again offers a sense of urgency: the grief and suffering that melt the life and culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples literally lead to death.
The Ice Block Quotes in The 7 Stages of Grieving
A large block of ice is suspended by seven strong ropes. It is melting, dripping on to a freshly turned grave of red earth. The performance area is covered in a thin layer of black powder framed by a scrape of white.
The Woman walks over to the grave and embraces the block of ice. Springing away, she turns to the audience and clutches her breast.
THE WOMAN: Oh my sousou.
The Woman sits on the edge of the grave.
I’m trying to deal with Dad’s death. He hasn’t died yet, but the time is coming soon when he’ll be taken away.