Monday, November 16, 2009

when the rain stops falling

This play is, alas, our second-last for the Melbourne Theatre Company 2009 season, and we’re trying to figure out a way to get our paws on a 2010 subscription. It was also the third play out of nine that I’ve blubbered in, the other two being Grace and August Osage County.

When the Rain Stops Falling is a story of echoes. It begins in 2039, with a lonesome father finding an astonishing gift from the sky while out buying lunch to have with his estranged son. From there, it travels back and forth in time and place: from London in 1959, to the Coorong in 1988, Adelaide in 2019 (or thereabouts), and again to 2039 Alice Springs. It winds around Henry Law and his wife Elizabeth, struggling with their newborn son Gabriel in the fifties and sixties, and what impacts and echoes their life choices have on the generations that follow. The gradual reveal of who the characters are in each place we see means that I can’t really say much more here without ruining the gentle flow of the narration. I spent a lot of the play trying to figure out who was who—similarly named characters throwing me off completely—and worried I would be still confused at the end. However, by the final act, a neat circle finally closed, I had a clear picture of who was who, what was what, and of the fact that despite remembering mints I had not put any tissues in my handbag. I have read reviews for this that explain exactly who everyone is, but I personally enjoyed nutting it out myself, even if being obscure wasn’t the intent of Andrew Bovell, the writer of this (and the brilliant movie Lantana.) So, unless described otherwise, the following people are discussed using their real names so I don’t give anything away.

The actors were wonderful, from Anna Lise Phillips’ Ostrayan beauty dealing with the loss of all those closest to her, to Neil Pigot’s double act over the years as a father with much to be sorry for. Paul Blackwell, in suburban Adelaide with the ailing Kris McQuade, let out an anguished wail that started off feeling awkward and ended (you know, seconds later) with me in floods of tears over all that had led him to it. When Elizabeth Law, played by Michaela Cantwell, needs to scream but cannot, you feel it anyway. And handsome young man-about-the-stage and much-maligned son Yalin Ozucelik is quite the dish. Family matriarch Carmel Johnson, playing the older Elizabeth Law, is heartwrenching when upset, but I have since discovered she played Bubby’s eventual lover in the terrifying Bad Boy Bubby and therefore I have seen her in the nude. Awkward.

Chris found the younger Elizabeth’s English accent to be occasionally wanting, but I’m not good at picking up on such things. I suffered a little from feeling stupid about not knowing who was who, even if that was the point, and I thought some of the costumes weren’t really dated properly—the young couple in 1988 looking pretty much like a young couple now, and not one of those current retro young couples who thinks that the 80s should have a comeback when it clearly should not. And fair enough, I can’t claim to know if we’ll be wearing similar clothes in 2039, but I’m hoping fashion will be similar to the style of The Jetsons.

All in all, it was a beautiful play. It ran without interval, which I’m always pleased with, and we had fantastic seats thanks to the endlessly friendly MTC box office personnel who changed our tickets when I had to work. While I’m sorry for being unable to discuss too deeply what the play is about, I had completely forgotten the premise by the time we saw it (having originally booked it in January) and I found it to be fascinating viewing regardless, and yet another reason for us to bankrupt ourselves with a subscription. Really, I’d have preferred it to be terrible for that reason alone.

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