Review: WAAPA 3rd year acting, When the Rain Stops Falling ·
The Roundhouse Theatre, 4 May ·
Review by Steven Cohen ·
When the Rain Stops Falling is a strangely beautiful Australian play; original and intriguingly complex. The sheer genius of the playwright, Andrew Bovell, is striking.
Andrew Bovell is a wizard of Oz. He forgoes the politics of David Williamson, the cultural lashings of Ray Lawler and the suburban psychology of Patrick White. Rather, he sets out to shunt upon us a gut-wrenching story that tackles intergenerational trauma, father-son relationships and – curiously, given the play’s focus on the personal and familial – the devastating effect of environmental damage.
The plot is a plate of spaghetti. There is no typical rise and fall. Instead, each scene focuses upon both the ordinary and grotesque. Some scenes are intense, but the theatrical style serves the theme well: that history is not necessarily linear but tangential. And vital.
The action shifts between Alice Springs, Uluru, Adelaide and London, fluctuating backwards and forwards in time. There is little connection between scenes, zero linearity and only the subtlest of links. We are made to feel “curiouser and curiouser” through jagged moments of peculiar dis-quiet. But, this is no Wonderland. Rather, it is a juxtaposition between hinterland and wasteland, where future is devoured by the sins of the past and the only way out is through the sheer power of love, strength and hope.
The crucial scenes occur in London 20 years apart. First, we are introduced to Gabriel Law, who confronts his malcontent and dispirited mother. We learn that Gabriel’s father absconded to Australia, when Gabriel was a small child. Later, the action shifts, in the most distressing of scenes, to that pivotal moment when Gabriel’s father leaves. Ignorant of the past, Gabriel decides to retrace his father’s footsteps to the Australian centre. And there we see how the ghosts of our past crash the future.
WAAPA’s production stays true to the intensity of the narrative. Using Edith Cowan University’s Roundhouse Theatre, visiting artist and director Peggy Shannon successfully creates an intimate and visual portrayal of time and its linear shifts.
Set designer Danielle Chilton has cleverly incorporated cascading water into the stage, framing weather as a key motif. Period clothing from each of the last several decades is used to fiendishly wrap each character in a generation of servitude to their ancestors.
On opening night all nine actors were equally impressive. Characterisation was on point, as was accent, position and interpretation. Indeed, it was a shame that not all actors shared equal stage time.
Everyone should see this production. Not just for the melancholy yet uplifting story, but to rest their minds that the future of theatre is in exceptional hands.
Photo: Jon Green