Synopsis: A story of love and loss, placed between two worlds, between a prediction in 1959 and its outcome eighty years later, told through the interconnected lives of two families over four generations.
Review: ‘When The Rain Stops Falling’ is a densely rich, and dark play intertwining characters in a poetic and cinematic nature. The content of this production is not light and fluffy, with family devastation on both sides of the fence that most would never recover from in reality and which haunt all involved in Bovell’s written word. Director Rachel Chant made this complex piece clear, keeping movement simple and purposeful which assisted in audience following who is who, when, where, and at what age circumstances where taking place. Chant’s casting was precise with a strong collection of actors performing complex characters. Chant generated some beautiful shapes from her ensemble, with some moving theatrical portraits.
I did feel strongly on the other hand that this space was not quite right for this particular production, a more intimate environment was required to assist and heighten both text and especially physical action. There was simply way too much room to move in for these actors, which interfered and went against characters stakes, and actors physicality. The text has some very confronting moments from an audience perspective which required a sensation of entrapment and contrast which was rarely achieved. There were also some dramaturgical concerns with some of the scenes, especially those that contained context that required some serious consideration of beats and the purpose of each tiny physical action, the inner symptoms of the characters during these scenes were not as powerfully pushed as required. In these moments the transparency of clear objective or life and death stakes for the characters and performer were thin and less grounded.
The design for this production by Martelle Hunt, though cleverly put together on an independent budget was not the right angle of abstraction for the work, with choices that were overly complicated in approach. With a work as intricate as Bovell’s, less is definitely more. An even more suggestive set would have proved as worthy. Stage management scene changes unneccisarily broke action for prolonged periods of time which hindered the musicality of Bovell’s writing. This too I felt could have been avoided. This all boils down to having too much space to play with.
As I mentioned previously, Chants’ casting choice for this production is well rounded. David Woodland starts strongly as one of the many generations of Gabriel’s. A man running from his past and avoiding his future alone in a run down hopeless unit. Gabriel does not believe in miracles or God, and a fish has just fallen out of the sky in the middle of the dessert. Woodland performs a resonably long monologue with beautiful rhythm and consistency, which kept audience captivated and drawn in. There is definitely room for improvement within the rather constant beat changes from character to character to give clearer definition. Woodland overall gave a solid performance, showed confidence with infectious vitality.
Helen Tonkin, plays the older distant mother of one of the generations of Gabriel’s. A mother who’s harbouring secrets has distanced and unrecoverable hindered her relationship with her son. Tonkin is a fine actor, who showed grief, heart ache and discontent in her characters physicality through the art of stillness. Stillness in fact was beautifully executed throughout this work, a wise choice by Chant and a heartfelt delivery by Tonkin. The stillness in Tonkins’ performance spoke much louder than her characters words ever could. Which is a true reflection of the soul.
Tom Conroy, played a few sons through-out which showcased his capacity for subtle adjustments in character. Conroy is a quality performer who had clearly found some foundational truths that were honest and believable. Conroy is a very generous performer who held nothing back without revealing all the mystery. Plenty for the audience to question and discover in his performance.
Peter McCallum, as Joe gave his audience a character to feel for and cheer on. Joe a soft-hearted, simple living man who has spent his life loving a woman who is loosing her mind in her age, with past and current circumstantial painful truths being flung in his face. McCallum’s performance was all heart and soul.
Renae Small, played the country girl Gabrielle with an awkward endearing quality that gave her character a rough diamond appearance. Her performance was enjoyable and at times humorous throughout. There were exchanges between Conroy and Gerald that at times felt textually out of beat and jarring, but these were not dominant of her performance. Small was engaging to watch.
Hailey McQueen, was given the challenging role of the younger version of one of a few lineages of Gabriels’ mother. McQueen had text that was by far the most confronting of Bovell’s writing dealing with a husband whose secret reveals subject matter that would make any stomach turn. Though somewhat unexplored I felt in the physical incarnation of her performance, and her emotional choices were surprisingly subtle considering the subject in spotlight, McQueen gave a gripping performance throughout. Her stillness also desirable to the eye with a human connection of sorrow not easily brushed aside.
Olivia Brown, played the aged Gabrielle whose mind is wandering from past to present with tremendous capacity and strength. Brown is a gripping performer whose emotional dwellings were clear and raw. Brown held a physical presence which made clear the stage is her place of comfort. Browns’ performance gorgeous from stake to stake. Lovely, sad and heartbreaking.
All in all Chant has done a beautiful job with a delicate text and smart casting. Sensational written play by Bovell. Worth your buck and worth your attention. On at The New Theatre till the 18th April
Photo credit: Bob Seary