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18 September, 2019

Moments of acerbic wit rapidly shifting to tender revelations

From the pen of Steven Oliver comes a vignette of family life unfamiliar to most, yet universally important in the telling.

From Darkness is set in the brief time frame of a family preparing for a dinner on the first anniversary of the death of Vinnie, son of Eric and Abigail, sibling to Preston and Akira and grandson of Nanna Lou.

The play explores themes of loss, guilt and isolation as the enormity of the occasion brings forth each character’s whirling torment, their own experience of the void left by the untimely death of Vinnie, and a search for spiritual connection beyond the grave.

Of particular significance, as a catalyst in a volatile storm of emotions, is the tension between Abigail and mother-in-law Nanna Lou.

The barbs and riposte escalate between the two in a torturous display, each lashing out, unable to quell the hurt and sadness.

Eric flounders between the two women, unable to settle their caustic conflict, as he buries his own sadness and loss.

Akira sullenly withdraws, however, in a beautifully rendered scene with Abigail, demonstrates another of the play’s major themes – resilience.

Preston meanwhile leads the exploration into a spirit world, which again reinforces the family’s challenge to survive and grow from this experience.

The onstage energy and presence of both Preston (Benjin Maza) and Nanna Lou (Roxanne McDonald) escalate the overall production to the next level.

Lighting engineer Ben Hughes has creatively transformed a static stage set into moments of intimate conversation, as well as juddering journeys into an ethereal awareness.

From Darkness is believable and poignant, at times difficult to watch as souls are laid bare, and yet witty and sharp in its commentary on modern Australia from a First Australian’s perspective.

Definitely a play worthy of its place in Australian storytelling.