Watching Andrew Bovell’s award-winning play, When the Rain Stops Falling, takes some concentration but it’s well worth the effort.
The interconnecting relationships between several generations of two families is at the heart of the play set in London and Australia.
When the Rain Stops Falling opens in Alice Springs in 2039 where it has been raining for days. Gabriel York is shocked when a fish falls from the sky. Through a long monologue we discover a fish costs a man’s annual wage, if indeed anyone can find one to buy. We also learn Gabriel has had a call from his son, Andrew Price, whom he abandoned years ago. Andrew wants to see his father. From there the play backtracks to London in 1958 where we meet Gabriel’s grandfather Henry Law and his wife Elizabeth.
For the next two or so hours we then explore the trials and tribulations of the couple, their son Gabriel and the love of his life. In Gabriel’s eyes his father deserted him when he was seven to come to Australia. As his mother refuses to tell him why his father left or what happened to him, Gabriel comes to Australia to find out for himself.
While in South Australia’s Coorong he falls in love with a young woman called Gabrielle. The discovery of a connection between Gabrielle’s dead brother and Gabriel’s father results in tragedy. This tragedy impacts Gabrielle’s life forever together with her husband Joe and her son.
The weather provides a continual backdrop to the play – in all but the final scene it’s raining and as a result parts of the world are continually facing apocalyptic flooding.
As the play explores the characters’ stories at different stages of their lives, Esther Van Doornum plays the young Elizabeth Law while Margaret Mills is the older Elizabeth. Lucy Chaix plays the young Gabrielle York, Heather Bolton is the older Gabrielle. Francis Greenslade plays two characters – Gabriel York and Henry Law while Darcy Kent is Gabriel Law and Andrew Price.
All the actors, who also include Alex Pinder as Joe, do a fantastic job in extremely challenging roles given the many monologues and the play’s melancholy feel. Furthermore, there’s no interval ensuring little respite for either the actors or audience.
Given the great sadness, hardship, trauma and regret experienced by just about all the characters When the Rain Stops Falling isn’t easy to watch. But it is compelling, absorbing and challenging. This probably explains why the play, which Bovell wrote in 2008, has played to critical acclaim both in Australia and overseas. Thanks to Iron Lung Theatre, a Melbourne based independent theatre company and Theatre Works, Melbourne audiences can see why.
When the Rain Stops Falling was due to play at Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street St Kilda, until July 31 however due to Victoria’s lockdown performances are currently suspended. Visit the Theatre Works site for more information and tickets.
*Photo credit: Lachlan Woods
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of When the Rain Stops Falling as a guest of the production company.
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