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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

When the Rain Stops Falling (Theatre Works) - 120 minutes, without interval

What a phenomenal piece of writing by Andrew Bovell (who wrote the powerful Australian film Lantana, which debuted in 2001).

When the Rain Stops Falling is a magnificently rendered, complex work that continually shocks and surprises.

Photo by Lachlan Woods

Its drip feed narrative comes together to form a most disturbing picture.

It is only when the full truth outs that you come to realise the true mastery of the art form.

This is a multigenerational production concerning two families that spans London, the Coorong (in South Australia) and Alice Springs over 80 years, from 1959.

First performed in 2008, it starts with teeming rain and a rare, possibly extinct, fish falling from the sky.

The receiver – a middle aged man – leads a shabby and reclusive life, having walked out on his seven-year-old son two decades earlier, something about which he is deeply ashamed.

Then, out of the blue, that now young man reaches out to his father.

At the same time, we get the story of another 20-something year old Englishman who has an awkward relationship with his alcoholic mother.

She and her husband separated when he was but a child.

She refuses to talk about her ex.

Her son knows she is holding back and decides to investigate for himself, based upon an old newspaper article he comes across.

That necessitates a trip to Australia, where, by chance, he meets a local woman, 24, who has lost both her parents.

She manages a roadhouse. She feeds him and puts him up for few nights.

The pair strikes up a relationship.

All this is overlaid by evocative reflections on climate change and extinction, an important and recurring theme which runs through When the Rain Stops Falling.

I have merely given you the bare bones. There is so much more to this yarn, or, better put, these interconnected tales.

The performances, led by Francis Greenslade, are superb.

His opening monologue – which sets the scene – is intriguing and assured.

Greenslade fills two roles – that of two fathers, each with sons – with distinction.

Darcy Kent comes across as sensitive and caring as those sons, longing to know more.

Esther van Doornum excels as a supportive, intelligent and betrayed wife, while Margaret Mills portrays the same woman later in life – dour, closed off and dogmatic.

Lucy Chaix shines as a young woman shaped by her testing past, desperate to escape her dead-end existence, but afraid of what might be.

Heather Bolton plays her later in life, suffering from dementia, prone to expletive riddled outbursts.

And Chris Connelly is cast as her stoic, but long-suffering husband.

When the Rain Stops Falling is impactful from the opening scene.

That is when multihued lighting, potent sound and the seven-strong cast with umbrellas raised deal with torrential rain, lightning and thunder.

Much of the action takes place around a long wooden table surrounded by benches and chairs, where fish head soup is on the menu.

The play, adroitly directed by Briony Dunn, unfolds over 22 scenes and requires concentration to follow … to piece together the puzzle.

Two hours without interval, I was mesmerised.

When the Rain Stops Falling is playing at Theatre Works in St Kilda until 18th March, 2023.


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