Review: Etiquette of Grief ****

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Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

Audience participation makes my skin crawl. So it is testament to this show that during it I felt genuinely compelled to go on stage, when invited by the solo performer, and share a very personal story of loss.

I’m not sure where doing something like that stands in the rules around the Etiquette of Grief, but when a show is this raw and personal, it is impossible not to be drawn into the world and feel a real necessity to become involved in it.

A one-woman show which is one of a seven-part series in which deviser and performer Ellie Harrison explores grief, this is a piece of work that has been supported by several organisations. It is easy to see why the Arts Council and venues have thrown their support behind the show – it is an unusual piece of work sitting outside mainstream theatre, but entirely earns its right to have a space.

Harrison’s conceit is that she is exploring grief through her dedication to Princess Diana. She interacts with a grief expert who appears digitally (and who she also plays) and tries to work through the grief she still feels at the loss of the ‘people’s princess’.

In a multi-layered performance, this is ultimately revealed as a lie and there is a breathtaking moment where Harrison, asking what grief ‘looks like’, performs tiny vignettes from Hollywood movies over and over. It is a strange, haunting moment – in a show that is equally both strange and haunting.