Review - When the Rain Stops Falling: focus on family, legacy, and betrayal
When the Rain Stops Falling
By Andrew Bovell
Directed by Kaela Gray
Javeenbah Theatre Company
Cnr Stevens & Ferry Streets,
Season: 12-27 January 2018; Bookings: www.javeenbah.org.au
The Javeenbah Theatre Company’s 2018 season opener When the Rain Stops Falling is certainly a great choice in terms of classic Australian plays.
The award-winning script focuses on family, legacy, and betrayal - packing enough drama to keep audience and actors immensely engaged.
It’s an ambitious choice – the play is text-heavy and has the the challenge of moving between time and settings. The plot itself spans across two continents and weaves through four generations of a family.
When the Rain Stops Falling opened to the sound of falling rain, set in the desert area of Alice Springs. Having been to Alice Springs and witnessed this rare spectacle, it immediately piqued my interest to know something out of the normal was about to happen within the play’s context. Need I add that heading to Javeenbah Theatre Company on a humid summer night, to see a play about endless rain, was ironic to say the least.
As the unimaginable occurrence of rain dawns in this remote location, we meet Gabriel York (played by Adrian Carr) who speaks of his own unbelievable coincidence - his estranged son has called and wants to see him, despite many years of separation. Gabriel is poor, a shell of a man, but still wants to leave a lasting impression. The audience is then invited to step back in time and take a journey through historical moments of Gabriel’s existence, and what has happened to lead to this particular moment.
Javeenbah Theatre Company has trusted such a show with Kaela Gray, a bold director who has made some really striking choices. In fact, it’s a bit disappointing her professional biography wasn’t listed in the play’s program, unlike her fellow cast and some production members.
The set was dressed quite simply, with minimal props and furniture – but that was all that was required to set the scene. One long wooden table, with branches extending from left to right across its front, housed many of the story lines.
Action between past and present tense seamlessly overlapped, as testament to Kaela’s ability to move players around the stage. Her mechanically choreographed scenes ensured actors used every ounce of the theatre - from the very front of the stage, to emerging through the audience, and then even to a back-corner, where a high-leveled platform rolled out to resemble the peaks of Uluru. Intense music and lighting established the tone and further amplified dramatic components of the script, which was quite effective and complimentary.
As much as When the Rain Stops Falling hit the mark in places, unfortunately in others, it was slightly lacking due to attention to detail.
There was huge potential to be explored between character dynamics and intimacy. In the two young actors – Gabriel Law (played by Clay Carlaw) and the younger Gabrielle York (played by Kelly Holden) – their chemistry felt forced. Kelly really achieved the hardness of a young Gabrielle, however lacked the lightness that would have cemented certain aspects of her life; like falling in love and starting to find her purpose.
Another relationship that could have been played-on was that of Henry Law (played by Trevor Love) and a young Elizabeth Law (played by Naomi Thompson). While they seemed to bounce off each other incredibly, the subtleness of touch would have added to Henry’s manipulation and shadiness. Naomi delivered a heart-wrenching performance as she pieced together Henry’s lies – one of the more memorable scenes of the night. But during this, her alcohol dependency could have been further investigated and used against her challenger.
As mentioned, there were some great atmospheric colour choices, but there needed to be more of a focus on establishing a consistent face light. At times, actors would move and walk directly into darkness. This made it hard to capture their raw emotions especially during essential scenes of the play.
Javeenbah Theatre Company has presented a solid version of the production that however, was three-quarters of the way there. With a little more fine-tuning, the elements of the production would have fit together like a nice puzzle. Unfortunately, the lighting issues, lack of chemistry and inconsistent accent-work made the first act lag. It wasn’t until the second act, where the pace picked up due to actors being comfortable with their characters.
Standout out performance of the evening was from Adrian Carr, as Gabriel York. His earnest and captivating monologue, which opened the play, was hypnotising and really pulled on audience member’s heartstrings. It’s a shame his role only saw him at the opening and closing of the production, as the truth behind his portrayal was really quite beautiful.
Another notable mention goes to Tracy Carroll, as the older Elizabeth Law. She played a worn mother, haunted by the secrets of her past. Carroll was focused, eloquent and just right in this overbearing role.
The locals in Nerang are lucky to have Javeenbah Theatre Company at their front doorstep, as the company really offers a lot in terms of theatrical value. The front-of-house team are extremely pleasant and all patrons are welcomed with open arms. It really is a lovely place to visit and despite the lack of ‘real’ rain, it made for a pleasant night out.