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August 8, 2011 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

When the Rain Stops Falling

After a hefty splurge at taking the theatre world by storm, Andrew Bovell’s surprise masterpiece When The Rain Stops Falling has finally made a debut in Wellington. Circa One’s staging of this staggeringly beautiful play is a credit to an already burgeoning array of challenging work, and believe me when I say we aught to stand behind and support this daring accomplishment.

As a father prepares to lunch with the son he hasn’t seen since the boy’s childhood—”Lunch seems hardly the point”—we delve into an intricate crossroads of familial ties, spanning 1960s Britain to an austere Australian future. We are led to observe the family genealogy of the Laws and the Yorks, and just how these two families came about to meet.

Donna Akersten and Jude Gibson as the two elder matrons deliver gut-wrenchingly harsh counterparts; Akersten graced by an iron cloak of British composure, whilst Gibson gently falters amidst a battle with Alzheimer’s (with an Australian drawl to boot). Both roles ascend the line of comedy to tragedy with extraordinary finesse.

Playing the same roles, but set in a distant past, Alison Walls and Sophie Hambleton both reflect and challenge their elder selves with the same gravitas. Walls’ emotional naivety, contrasted by stunning intellectual prowess, is as endearing as it is tragic. Hambleton’s Gabrielle—”it’s Biblical”—having spent her life alone on the Coorong, is imbued with a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact air that lends the role beauty and selflessness.

Jason Whyte opens the show with a miracle, and from that point on plays the Father role, a character that reappears further down the family tree. With the exception of a sometimes drooping British accent, he is a marvellous performer, undergoing constant change between being witty, lovable, helpless and strong. Richard Chapman as the parallel—the proverbial son—echoes many of those same traits and just like his father, he too goes on a journey of discovery. In a clumsily genteel sort of way Chapman’s performance is just what the part requires.

Christopher Brougham playing the out-of-the-blue simple Joe Ryan, brings yet another delicious thick aussie twang, a tender heart, and a solid consistency over which the rest of this delirious world seems to operate.

The only want for improvement relies upon an unfortunate set that leaves much to be desired. At times the play becomes difficult to follow simply at the lack of any visual stimulation. The projection screen that forms the backdrop, the long brown dining room table, black chairs, and rusty orange floor boards all stick out as an attempt to merge several concepts to make one über concept. It is neither successful nor attractive. This fault is gratefully alleviated somewhat by Gareth Hobbs’ flawless score and Marcus McShane’s crisp lighting design.

For an evening of searing comedy, tragedy, beauty, and talent, do not miss out on the sheer force of this exemplary stage craft. When The Rain Stops Falling. Do it.


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