Dan’s dreaming of dead ducks and cartoon skeletons. He’s also dying. Terminal brain cancer has forced Dan to decide how he wants the end of his life to look. Despite his supportive partner, well-intentioned sister and nurse who comforts by-the book – no one can give him what he needs. It’s time Dan chooses how he goes.

When hotel concierge Dan, 33, learns of his terminal brain cancer he does everything he can to avoid dying his nightmare death. Unable to face the uncertainty of how his death will happen he obtains the illegal life ending drug, Nembutal, to give him the ultimate final say in how he will spend his last moments.

His decision to take control is hard for his teacher boyfriend, Liam, to accept and even more so for his distant lawyer sister Kate. Dan’s palliative care nurse Alice is bound by the rules of the medical profession and her own faith.

As Dan experiences increasing confusion he dozes in and out of different memories as he processes and comes to terms with what his life has amounted to: he comes out to his sister, he introduces her to his new boyfriend Liam, he tells people he is dying and experiences aphasia for the first time before collapsing. In Dan’s final memory we see Liam and Dan when they first meet, before returning to the moment Dan tells Liam that it is time to take the Nembutal to end his life.

Dan brings the cup to his lips and suddenly rapidly firing memories cascade as Dan’s control over his death disintegrates.

When The Light Leaves explores how people navigate the reality of death and reconcile their grief, leaving audiences to decide for themselves how they would want to go.

"...a moving and nuanced four-hander... a talented, emotionally honest dive into a tragic human situation" - Cameron Woodhead, The Age

“Godbold’s work marks a departure from enigmatic depictions of death, dwelling uninhibitedly and empathetically on both the ordinariness and extraordinariness of those final struggles that precede the ultimate arrival of death.”- Arjun Rajkhowa, Arts Hub

“a bold and thought provoking piece of theatre that leaves you asking yourself a question you hope you never have to answer.” - Myron My, My Melbourne Arts

“This is a brave and compelling story about a subject that is crying out for a voice.” - Patricia Di Risio, Stage Whispers

  • contemporary drama
  • 0
  • 4 total
  • 2 female identifying, 2 male identifying
  • women, lgbtqia+
  • 18+
  • young adult
  • Australian Plays Transform


You can preview the full online text with a Membership


Male | 30s | under 3 minutes
Starts on page 3

EXTRACT: It’s that old Disney cartoon. It starts with a bell chime, a dog howls, bats fly across the screen, two black cats screech at each other and curve their backs. The skeleton creeps in and even the cats know it is the most terrifying thing in the world and rush off. A nightmare vision: bleached bone under rotting flesh. Agile with no meat to weigh it down, could sneak up on you at any minute, making your spine jump and your insides twist. In my dream the skeleton is in my house. On that table. Looming overhead. Skin drooping off bones. Heavy. Like lycra filled with sand. Bones protruding so much they split the surface of the flesh, skin bursting open. Blood trails out slowly, drip by drip, until there is no more fluid to drain.

Images or voices of people who are deceased, Graphic sexual content, Ableist language


Female | Unspecified | under 3 minutes
Starts on page 38

EXTRACT: You were probably too little to remember, but the night Dad died, Mum gave you one of his singlets. He would keep his singlets forever - they were those baggy, misshapen ones, those ones that come in a packet of three from the supermarket and he would keep them until they disintegrated. They were always covered in paint and varnish stains. When they started to fall apart, Mum would rip them up and use them as kitchen rags so he couldn’t wear them anymore.

Physical abuse, Bullying, Adult language, Ableist language

Search for details of past productions at

AusStage provides an accessible research facility for investigating live performance in Australia.

Search by play title and/or playwright name
Results will open in a new window

PLEASE NOTE: You will be directed to for search results; Australian Plays Transform is not responsible for their completeness. Refer to our terms of use.

SKU: APT-9 Category:

We acknowledge that we live and create on unceded lands. We pay our respects to the First Peoples of Australia, and to their elders past, present and future.

© Australian Plays Transform 2024