All I knew about When The Light Leaves before seeing it was that it was a play, based on a true story, about euthanasia. Specifically, it’s a story put on by Citizen Theatre with the release coinciding with the implementation of Victoria’s new Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws set to come into effect on June 19. The story is fictional but based on the real experiences of playwright Rory Godbold. Godbold’s father publicly acquired Nembutal, the drug used to euthanise pets and animals, before dying in 2015.
Arriving at La Mama Courthouse, I sat in the quaint waiting area before the doors opened and the patrons migrated into the theatre. What was immediately noticeable was that every prop was suspended in the air. Apples, books and lights hung as though in space. A sense of distance from reality took hold before the play even began.
As the play started, I saw the props used to great effect despite never touching the ground. Telephone calls, gift exchanges and arguments were expressed beautifully as they swung like pendulums from actor to actor.
As the story unfolded, one word kept coming to mind: poignant. I am a strong believer that everything has its time and place. Horror stories should be scary. Action stories should make your heart thump. This was a sad story, one that sought to capture the anguish and trauma of death and loss. And it did so brilliantly.
The fact that the story was based upon real experiences was evident. Emotionally, it touched the heart in a personal way. Everyone has had an experience with death or has known someone who’s died. To deliver such a sorrowful message in a way that wasn’t melodramatic, cheesy, or squeamish is the primary accomplishment of this production.
If you want a story that captures the silver linings and grim shadows of life and death in earnest, this is the play to see.
Where: La Mama Courthouse, 345 Drummond Street, Carlton
When: 12-23 June 2019
Time: Wednesday 6:30pm, Thu-Sat 7:30pm, Sunday 4pm – Wednesday 19 June: optional Q&A after performance – Friday 21 June: AUSLAN interpreted performance
More Information and tickets: here