Faboriginal Steven Oliver’s ‘From Darkness’ is magnificent theatre

Steven Oliver From Darkness La Boite
Image: Amsnel Gorgonio

Steven Oliver’s play From Darkness originated in a chat with his family. “We were talking about spirits and time travel and going back to change the time when Cook arrived.” From that conversation emerged the gripping, darkly funny drama rightly described by ArtsHub as one of the ‘must-see’ shows of the Brisbane Festival. It is on at La Boite until 28 September.

From Darkness is magnificent theatre.

While the play tells the story of an Aboriginal family, the message is universal. From Darkness speaks to the human experience: how we talk and listen, or more usually, don’t listen to each other.

Faultless writing and direction and superb acting all contribute to a remarkably engaging work.

From Darkness

On the anniversary of Vinnie’s death, spirits seem to torment his 17-year-old brother Preston (Benjin Maza) as he sleeps. Their mother Abigail (Lisa Maza) hits the grog to cope with her child’s death while sister Akira (Ebony McGuire) rarely looks up from her phone and dad Eric (Colin Smith) retreats into himself.

Eric’s mother Nanna Lou (Roxanne McDonald) comes over for dinner on the night of the anniversary.

from darkness steven oliver la boite
Back: Lisa Maza, Colin Smith. Front: Ebony McGuire, Roxanne McDonald, Benjin Maza. Image: Dylan Evans Photography

Tension erupts as the family attempts to talk circles around the subject of Vinnie’s death and avoid any discussion of the spirits they’re all aware of.

But however intense the play, it’s also funny as f***.

The laughs come freely and never more than when Nanna Lou is in full flight. Roxanne McDonald is a marvel.

Permission to laugh

Playwright Steven Oliver explained his juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy as a natural response to grief.

“As Aboriginal people, we use comedy as a coping mechanism. We deal with tragedy a lot. We use it to cope.

“Talking to mob, one minute we’ll be talking about something heavy and then someone will crack a joke mid-sentence.

“It’s about giving ourselves permission to laugh. Sometimes it’s all we can do.”

The play also features some beautiful visual effects that bring the visiting spirits alive to Preston and the audience.

“Spirits are part of who we are as Aboriginal people,” says Steven, “They have always been there for us.”

La Boite CEO and Artistic Director said From Darkness “will take audiences from tears to belly-laughs all in the space of 70 minutes.

“Steven’s voice is critical, political and full of heart and From Darkness is a deeply-personal work.”

Deeply personal and yet, universal.

Don’t miss it. You’ll laugh till it hurts, and come out of the theatre feeling better about humanity.

From Darkness
A La Boite & Brisbane Festival Co-production
11 – 28 September

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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