Q&A with Actress, Stephanie Pena

What most appealed to you about Good Grief?

The way in which it is so emotively written, and the authenticity and layers of the characters. How the impact of grief is uniquely explored with compassion. It’s a play of its time, set during the pandemic, and we can all relate in some way to this deep sadness as we’ve lived through a shared experience and are still feeling its impact.  Grief is a process we cannot shy away from. You walk through it, ideally not alone, but with others. The Walkers are trying their best to do that, and Good Grief is a display of brave and honest writing.

The story gives a poignant nod to the pandemic. Like the characters, do you feel changed by what we’ve all lived through?

Of course! I very much feel changed by what we’ve all lived through. Everything we’ve ever been through leaves an impression on us and becomes part of our life journey. The importance is to never lose hope and to keep loving those around you, especially in the hardest of times. Keep loving, even when the pain and tears flow. If you are still breathing, never lose hope. Keep moving forward with compassion for yourself and others. Go gently, especially when you are walking with grief. My Christian faith has always been an anchor in my life. It got me through the darkest of times and was my rock during this incredibly sad  couple of years.

You play Esther Walker, the bohemian child in the foster family. How do you see her?

I see her as a person who tries her hardest to see the good in everyone she meets. She tries to be loving and kind whilst carrying the wounds from her childhood that are yet to heal. A peacemaker, a sensitive soul, a free spirit, an empathetic world traveller, someone who’s independent and who wants to be loved and accepted by her family for just being who she is.

In this play, the Walker family display a whole spectrum of emotions. Are there any similarities between the Walkers and your own family?

The Walkers are different and unique. But then grief affects us all differently. There are many stages to grief, and we see the whole spectrum of emotions with the Walkers. Through personal experience, we all can relate to them in some way.

Like any family, mine have had to overcome a lot over the last few years, and before the pandemic. I am very grateful to my family for their love. We help and support each other, prayerfully walking with each other through moments of sadness, despair and grief. True love is not just there for the good times but in all times.

To support someone through grief is very powerful. To grieve is to know that we have truly loved. You need your family and friends when you are in a season of grief as the sadness can be overwhelming. To let out emotions is good, but to hold everything in tightly can never be achieved forever. It comes out eventually, and we see that with the Walkers. Embracing forgiveness, and at the same time letting the pain out in healthy ways so we don’t hurt others, can be a real challenge. We see the impact of hurt within the Walker family, but we also see reconciliation, unity, and how love paves a way to embrace the pain.

What three words would you use to sum up Good Grief?

Emotive, topical, brave.

What other plays would you compare it to?

Good Grief is a unique play that I can see being performed at the Royal Court Theatre, the Young Vic and the National Theatre. It is also beautifully scripted to could be adapted for film. It reminds me of The memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson. Jody has written this project with honest, brave and emotive writing, on a topic we can all embrace with compassion or be moved to take positive action. You will feel like you’re journeying with the characters. We can all relate to the Walkers as grief is a season that at some point, unfortunately, we all have to walk through if we haven’t already.

Why should people come to see Good Grief?

There is no reason not to see it! It’s new writing at its best with a talented cast that will emote your empathy, and make you laugh and cry as you journey with the Walkers in their season of grief. Who knows, this family may even impact you to make a change for the greater good. When we connect with others in their grief we realise we are not alone with ours, and there is great comfort in being together. We all have a choice to make, so make a good one.

We’d like to thank Stephanie for taking the time to speak to us and can’t wait for Good Grief to begin its 3-day run at The Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple. Performances are between 24-26 June 2022, and you can book your ticket from the link below.

Book Your Ticket

Please note that anyone who comes to see the play can get a copy of Spectrum for half price, making it £4.99 instead of £9.99. Simply keep hold of your theatre ticket and present it to us upon buying the book after its release on 8 September 2022 (International Literacy Day).