Having its European premiere at Islington’s Almeida theatre, When The Rain Stops Falling comes from the pen of Andrew Bovell, the writer of Lantana, one of my all-time favourite films (which incidentally) was adapted from his own play, Speaking In Tongues. And when I heard some of the Australian actors with whom he was worked would also be appearing, my level of excitement shot sky-high and has been there since early November last year when I bought my tickets!
Safe to say, it lived up to my expectations and then some. By no means an easy light-hearted piece, rather it is complex, sometimes languorous, but ultimately extremely rewarding. It is just hauntingly beautiful: the echoing prose, the music, the imagery and some incredible acting combine to just devastating and moving effect, indeed I think I had tears running down my face for about three-quarters of the play.
The scope of the play is epic: it covers four generations of a family and numerous locations spread over both London and Australia and “it interweaves a series of connected stories, as seven people confront the mysteries of their past in order to understand their future, revealing how patterns of betrayal, love and abandonment are passed on.” That description is taken from the Almeida website, lazy I know but I could not find a more succinct way to put it without spoiling what happens. I think it is safe to say that the central driving story is around a young man whose struggles to explain and understand the mysterious disappearance of his father lead him (and the audience) on a voyage of discovery both in the past and the present, and we also see the impact of all of this on the future generations as well.
Flicking through time and space (though not in a Doctor Who kind of way 😉 does give an initial sense of disconnectedness with the only common factors seemingly being certain recurring motifs such as fish soup and the repetition of banal phrases about the weather, but then slowly the varying storylines intertwine more and more and as we progress, we begin to realise just how connected all the events are, and how strongly the actions of the past can reverberate through future generations.
It seems unfair to single out any of the actors, since the whole ensemble is quite simply superb (but if you had to push me, Lisa Dillon, Phoebe Nicholls and Leah Purcell were outstanding. And Naomi Bentley. And Simon Burke), and even the rain that intermittently falls onto the set is highly effective. At just over two hours with no interval, some people may baulk, but personally I did not mind as it kept the atmosphere electric for me, and in the end, it really is no longer than a film at the cinema.
I’ve actually found this review really hard to write, as I have not wanted to say too much about the play itself so as not to spoil any of it. But I hope I have manage to convey a little of just how astounding I found this play. For me, it is hands down the best thing I have seen on stage this year, and have already booked my tickets to see it a second time.