When The Rain Stops Falling - Theatreworks (VIC)
Written by Andrew Bovell. Directed by Briony Dunn.
Reviewed by Lillian Gerlach
Theatreworks, St Kilda
2 - 18 March
- A long awaited production that shows a depth of care, but doesn't quite resonate -
I read this play for the first time in the early winter of 2019, and I absolutely loved it. For the next few years when asked the question “what’s your favourite play?,” When The Rain Stops Falling was my answer. It is an intense story of intergenerational trauma being played out across eight years at the same time, on the same stage, peppered with touches of the absurd and hints of Australian Gothic.
The cast of seven all do a wonderful job of these complex characters. The script calls for cross-casting so our talented actors all play different versions of the same characters at different stages of their lives, with the cast weaving between many roles: playing both father and son, or grandmother, mother and wife. However this production didn’t quite do a clear job of explaining exactly who was who. Apart from some helpful costume similarities to tie two actors to the same character, I was still left questioning a few members of this tangled family tree as we journey with them through their past. However, these elements did come together bit by bit as we reached the finale. A stand-out for me was Margaret Mills, who encapsulated a deep, silent grief and had a powerful presence on stage that I was drawn to.
The stage and set design were simple, white walls, black floor, a long table and some chairs. The lighting is used in some interesting ways to create the illusion of hallways and other rooms on stage. This relatively open space meant we experienced many monologues standing, facing front and drifting slightly across the stage, which grew a little tiresome. The stage design however really shone when suddenly the set was transformed into the looming, red shadow of Uluru.
This production of When the Rain Stops Falling has been slogging towards the stage since 2020. Covid lockdowns, cast unavailability and season cancellations have meant that even though it had one opening night in 2021 before being cancelled the next day, the director, cast and crew have brought it back again and again. This constant push to get this show up over the course of three years begs the question why this play, why now? Or more importantly, why this story, why like this?
The issues I have with this play are pointed at its author, not at the cast and crew who have managed to put on such a mammoth show.
I find Bovell’s writing out of touch, and this was highlighted unfortunately in this production. Why is there such an intense focus on the men of this family when I would argue the women’s stories are all much more emotionally complex and interesting. Yet we follow each man trying to connect with his father to find out ‘where he comes from, who he is.’
We are spoon-fed lines over and over again which grates after a while, and there are a few plot-holes that cannot be ignored. Gabriel doesn’t know his father’s actions, yet ‘finding out’ his father was ‘allegedly’ the cause of a horrible trauma is the cause of his death? This is meant to be a significant moment in the play, however I was left questioning. There is no concrete link aside from coincidence that ties this man and this event together.
The issues I have with this play are pointed at its author, not at the cast and crew who have managed to put on such a mammoth show. This specific production clearly has a lot of love and effort poured into it, and that is not to be discounted. It is hard to put on a production, get funding, a venue and spend countless hours working on a show. It is also rare to see such a big cast on stage, and I really enjoyed seeing so many local actors working.
Heather Bolton, Lucie Chaix, Esther van Doornum, Francis Greenslade, Darcy Kent, Margaret Mills, Chris Connelly
Esther van Doornum, Hugh Owens,
Paul Pandelis, Liz Dunn, Linda Herd, Kathryn House