When the Rain Stops Falling
In a remarkable display of prescience given our recent storm, the Court Theatre’s latest offering, When The Rain Stops Falling is equally likely to make you laugh or cry, but probably both.
A drama, telling the tale of two families over 80 years, four generations and two continents, When the Rain Stops Falling takes you from Alice Springs in 2039, where fish are no more and the heavens have burst, to London in both the 1960’s and 1988 (and back again, many times), Adelaide in 2013 and then back to the future. This absolutely stunning play has layer upon layer of complexity, both structurally and by the themes it addresses, which extend vastly beyond the story that is told (not many plays take on global warming). You could watch this play many times and dive a bit further into its depths each time.
You certainly need to have your wits about you, the flash forwards and backs don’t play out in a linear sequence, two actors play some parts, characters transcend time and space to be on stage together and Mark Hadlow plays his character’s grandfather. The intellectual investment required to keep up in the early stages through a seemingly random series of interactions and monologues, pays great dividends when it all comes crashing into place in a stark moment of crushing realisation, which makes sense of the trail of breadcrumbs left before, the repercussions of which play out in almost slow motion.
Responding as if on cue with laughter, horrified gasps, tears and stunned silence, this was an audience in the palm of director Ross Gumbley’s hand. The direction was a masterclass in theatre, with every element of the production sympathetic to the powerful story. Beautifully orchestrated choreography lends a sense that everything is connected before you quite realise just how, haunting ballet of the fish soup early in the piece sowing the seeds of just how connected these characters are.
Even when you aren’t exactly sure where it is going in the early stages, there is a sense of foreboding which is utterly compelling, in large part created by the production team, whose efforts perfectly complement the intensity of the performances. As if realising that sensory overload on top of being emotionally overwrought might push the limits of the audience, lighting (Giles Tanner) and sound (Sean Hawkins) was understated but high impact. Subtle but absolutely integral in building the atmosphere and giving the audience the sense of safety needed to completely emotionally engage (strobe lighting and loud noises would have been the end of me).
The set (designed by Mark McEntyre) is stunning in its seeming simplicity, the muted tones and clean lines wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of Kinfolk. While I’m sure it pained costume designer Tina Hutchison-Thomas to pair so much denim on denim, the costume choices assisted in creating an identity for each generation.
With no props or gimmicks to rely on to build a distinct landscape for each time and place, an even heavier burden fell on the actors to create this from thin air, which was critical against the complexity of the storyline. Without exception, the cast delivered absolutely sensational performances and the commitment and dedication put in to each character was evident. Its not an easy task to not only create a character, but help build the world around it, and in some cases, while complementing another actor’s portrayal of the same character (and maintaining a Kath Day-Knight accent). Not easy, but completely nailed.
While it seems wrong to single out performances, Mark Hadlow demonstrated why he is one of our finest actors. Playing two related characters (Gabriel York and Henry Law), in essentially the same costume, he creates two completely different people, with such different mannerisms you could be forgiven for forgetting its the same man behind them. He portrays deeply flawed characters with compassion and the transformation between them is masterful. Your heart will break for faithful Joe Ryan (Bruce Phillips), whose portrayal of a life lived in another man’s shadow is utterly moving. Lauren Gibson as young Gabrielle York is a standout, with both impeccable comedic timing and the ability to convey immense pain without even speaking. She also has amazing hair, which seems unfair and anyone who can rock dungarees deserves special mention.
Like its structure, When The Rain Stops Falling is many things at the same time, compelling, painful, heartbreaking, thoughtful, humorous, devastating, shocking and hopeful, and leaves you feeling all of this things. The true test of any show is its ability to make you feel something, and the emotional impact of When The Rain Stops Falling is undeniable. It is absolutely stunning theatre and one of the best things I have seen on stage anywhere.