Review: The Sound of Heavy Rain, Roundabout season at Shoreditch Town Hall

“You can’t always plan for the route ahead”

Technical problems meant that my original trip to see The Sound of Heavy Rain at Shoreditch Town Hall as part of a three show day, encompassing the whole Roundabout season of new writing engineered by Paines Plough, was scuppered. Fortunately the other two plays – Lungs and One Day When We Were Young – more than made up for the disappointment and I was able to squeeze in Penelope Skinner’s play later in the run to make up the full set.

In some ways, it seems a curious addition to the programme in that both stylistically and thematically, it felt quite distinct from the yearning, emotional intimacy of the other two plays. The Sound of Heavy Rain is a world apart with its film noir pastiche and cabaret leanings as grizzled private detective Dabrowski is approached by Maggie Brown to find her bar-room singer friend Foxy O’Hara who has gone missing. But instead of the boulevards of LA, we’re in the dark streets of Soho where it never stops raining. 

This transplant of an American idea onto British soil is something Skinner also explored in Fred’s Diner, which played a couple of months back in Chichester, though where her dramatic construction fell down a little there, the skill with which her characters’ dialogue was fashioned was unquestionable. Here, the dialogue still sparkles with a bright comic intent and the larger themes that emerge – of identity crises and of believing what we want to see rather than what actually is – are cleverly worked into the unravelling mystery. There’s a tad too much unevenness though, the desire to wrong-foot unbalancing the play a little too much in the short running time.

The four actors all deliver persuasive performances, perfectly attuned to the extreme intimacy enforced by the compact in-the-round staging, and director James Grieve further plays on Lucy Osbourne’s design by occasionally pulling the performers into the stairwells. In and of itself, The Sound of Heavy Rain is really quite entertaining and an interesting piece of new writing; but grouped with two other plays of such deep emotional power – Lungs in particular – it pales somewhat in comparison.

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Playtext cost: £3
Booking until 27th October

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