Directed by Rachel Chant
New Theatre, Newtown
Season: 17 March – 18 April
“I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in miracles. I can’t explain this.”
Through torrential downpour during a trip to the supermarket, a single fish, a delicacy, falls from the sky and into the grasp of Gabriel. This extraordinary occurrence marks the beginning of When the Rain Stops Falling, which weaves together the exceptional and the mundane components of people’s lives, passing through multiple generations.
Directed by Rachel Chant and written by Andrew Bovell, this play was incredibly moving, striking all the right chords at the correct moments. A compilation of characters whose life experiences overlap, complement and contrast each other highlight the commonalities in human experiences – that of relationship breakdown, disappointment, loss and love.
A stellar cast eased the frequent transition through time and place, holding the audience’s attention in spite of ambitious undertakings - the play traversing continents and three generational gaps. A greater challenge ensues, as the audience must determine each character’s relationship to the other, bolstered by limited clues unveiled throughout the piece. During the play I found this constant thought process a little frustrating, yet as the play drew to a close, I realised it was actually an edifying feature. You were always aware that there was an affinity between the characters. This was achieved through use of dialogue repetition and recurrent themes, casting a link between the characters. Multiple characters repeated very similar dialogue, managing to slightly nuance the presentation, creating humour and audience familiarity. In the course of time, I became very invested in the relationships being played out before me, and finally understanding each person’s relationship to each other at the end felt like the last piece of the puzzle fitting snugly into place.
The interconnectedness of lives was a prominent theme in the play. Each relationship was symbiotic to the life experiences that one involuntarily carries with them, and which can be transported through generations. There were numerous poignant moments throughout the piece, nearly moving me to tears at the play’s climax. A sign of a strong character and actor is when you can see the character being changed by what he or she encounters and experiences. Under Chant’s direction, each actor shape-shifts throughout the piece, depicting a metamorphosing character that is unbelievably believable for the audience. Tom Conroy shines in the multiple roles he takes on, revealing light and shade in his various relationships, showing how formative one’s relationships are.
The set design was beautiful, incorporating abstract elements into the piece that were highly effective due to the malleable nature of an abstract setting. The set design transcended time and place, drawing the focus to the central figures rather than their environment. The design consisted of fabric strewn across the floor, which at times came to life, billowing across the stage as air was blown underneath it. The back wall of the stage was suspended and tilted to loom over the actors, its angle shifting throughout the piece. At points this was unnoticeable, yet in different scenes this induced a sense of claustrophobia – perhaps the inescapability of one’s fate weighing upon the characters. Simple props were used, incorporating no more than necessary. This design decision again allowed the focus to remain steadfastly upon the characters, not allowing them to be crowded out by the things surrounding them. Costume choices were simple and appropriate for each character.
I believe that When the Rain Stops Falling managed to move each and every person in the theatre that night. It is astounding to find great writing that provides so much potential to be unlocked on stage. This production certainly found the key, allowing the audience to be affected by Bovell’s writing, and then venturing beyond written parameters to escort the audience to the emotional crux of the piece.