Review by Stephanie Lee
Andrew Bovell’s When The Rain Stops Falling is a puzzle of scenes that are slowly pieced together by the audience to tell the tumultuous family history of Gabriel York. The writing is clever, heartbreaking and truly makes you consider the impact of a single individual on the course of history.
Opening on Gabriel York after he has caught a fish that fell out of the sky in the middle of the desert, the action slowly plays out in a series of scenes that span across countries and time periods to explain how he got to his current situation. Although confusing at the start, with each scene there is a new piece of information about Gabriel’s family until it is finally revealed why he has run from his past for so long.
A standout performance is Francis Greenslade as the bumbling, worn down Gabriel York. His lengthy monologue at the start of the piece is incredibly well managed and the distinction between his portrayal of Henry and Gabriel is established expertly right from the start.
Darcy Kent as Gabriel Law is also a highlight, as his portrayal of the young Englishman arrived in Australia to search for clues of his father nicely balances the line between a deeply hurt, reflective boy and witty, charismatic young man.
Clarke’s set design supports the piece incredibly well the entire performance. The shiny floors mimicking rain washed pavement and the white walls with multiple entrances effectively underscores the show, assisting in clean transitions and a homely feel.
Further, Justin Gardam’s projection design working in conjunction with the set to create Uluru is a poignant moment of the performance and truly makes the audience stop and marvel like the characters.
Auhl’s costume design effectively connected the characters, with all of them dressed in similar dull tones except the younger versions of Gabriel and Gabrielle who have brighter colours on highlighting their youth. The umbrellas and coats also nicely assist with the transitions from outside to inside with the hanging of them in the entryway serving as a constant reminder of the rain pouring outside.
Similarly, the sound design also acts as a transition in time with the sound of rain and thunder connecting the scenes. One of my favourite moments of sound was when younger Gabrielle was dancing along to music and the music itself was cleverly made to sound like it was coming from an old-time radio from the room stage right. The detail of the sound design is incredibly helpful in keeping the story moving and establishing a sense of interconnectedness.
The movement of the piece directed by Cory Derrick is highly stylised at times with a ritualistic scene where each member of the family comes home and serves themselves a bowl of fish soup, which after everyone is sitting in silence breaks into a scene between younger Gabriel and his mother. This moment is particularly effective at setting up the themes of family and connectedness as it happens before we understand who each character is.
The next person already entering and slowly going about their business during the end of the previous scene, also connects the family members without them directly interacting with each other. The most beautiful and heart-breaking moment of this is when younger Elizabeth and older Elizabeth sit across from each other alone at the table and drink a bottle of wine each, with the scene being intersected with a tense moment between younger Elizabeth and Henry.
The play truly shows the audience rather than tells them, which makes the final scene all the more enjoyable having had to come to each conclusion yourself.
Although the themes of climate change weren’t as prominent as I thought they would be, with it acting more as an undertone to the family drama, the whole play was fantastically done and Dunn’s direction of it truly connected every element of dramaturgy and design in delightful ways.
When The Rain Stops Falling is not one to miss if you enjoy thought provoking, captivating storytelling.