Louis Nowra wrote Radiance specifically for three Aboriginal actors: Rachael Maza, Lydia Miller and Rhoda Roberts. The three performed in the first production of Radiance at Belvoir Street, and the playscript I read made much of the fact that this was a play written for particular actors. I’m not sure whether this emphasis was necessary, apart maybe from the playwright’s need to express the fact that he, a white male, had been asked to write this play about Indigenous women.
Mae, Cressy and Nona are estranged half sisters, brought together after many years for their mother’s funeral. They have never really lived together and have each had very different relationships with their mother. The play is a family drama about three women trying to make sense of their past and find their sense of belonging. Nona, the youngest, is desperate to find her father, no matter what the others say about him.
NONA: This flesh and blood is half his.
MAE: This flesh and blood is also his father’s and his father’s father, just as mum’s blood is her mother’s mother’s. The blood stretches back until the first man and woman. He’s not half your blood.
NONA: Hey, I never thought of it that way. Then it makes sense to forgive him. He’d have their blood. He may be a rotten sod, but his father could have been quite a nice bloke and his mother fantastic.
Nona stays optimistic and upbeat, even when it means shutting her ears and mind to the truth. Mae, the oldest, has been their mother’s carer while Cressy escaped the family to work as an opera singer overseas. Once they all come together some of the bile and hurt they’ve been holding for all these years has to finally make its way out.
I’d be interested to read the newer release of Radiance, which includes the original stage play, the screenplay and an essay by Nowra talking about the adaptation process.
Publisher: Currency Press