Review by Lucy Holz
Returning once again to the Theatreworks stage, Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling has truly cemented itself as an Australian classic. A production by Iron Lung Theatre, this ensemble piece follows the stories of two families over four generations across both London and Australia.
Interweaving themes of climate change, abuse, love, loss and forgiveness, the construction of this play could easily be confusing. The story jumps from one country to another, from generation to generation, to a character falling in love to that same character years later, married to another man. However Bovell weaves his tale with ease, disclosing information slowly at first and then all at once, with shocking revelations that leave the audience reeling.
Briony Dunn directs this terrific script with a focus on drama. Despite the casting of comedic actor Francis Greenslade as our leading man, this production leans away from humour. The subtle comedy of the dialogue still elicits chuckles from the audience, but is not supported by direction. This choice does slow the pacing considerably, with little light and shade to keep us fully engaged for a two hour show with no interval.
Set by Greg Clarke is minimal and deliberate. The stage is covered with a vinyl-like coating which squeaks with every step the actors take. Used for a play about torrential rain and devastating floods, this choice perfectly captures the sounds of wet shoes on dry floorboards, immersing us in the world of the play. Surrounded by sparse white walls, Clarke creates a timeless space that successfully bridges the gap between countries and timeframes.
This simple design also acts as a projector screen, allowing lighting by Clare Springett to shine. A foreboding Uluru rises before us, glowing red when previously everything had been nothing but white. Sound by Darrin Verhagen supports lighting and text, adding to our immersion into this abstract world of fish falling from the sky.
With a seven strong cast of actors, this company is tight and their performances slick. Darcy Kent is a standout as the lost and loving Gabriel Law and his own courageous grandson Andrew. Charming, melancholy and stoic, Kent moves from one revelation to the next, carrying us with him on his devastating journey of discovery.
Chris Connelly plays a downtrodden and immensely likeable Joe, and steals the show in his later scenes. Kind but at the end of his tether, Joe is a man who has done nothing but his best, and Connelly pulls at our heartstrings with his confrontation with a wife who never truly loved him.
Growing more relevant with every natural disaster ridden year, this show will surely continue to be performed until its futuristic setting date, 2039. At that point the audience members themselves may be half submerged in their seats and the actions of these characters will still have relevancy. A classic play performed by a strong cast, if you haven’t seen When the Rain Stops Falling, this is a compelling production well worth your time.