When the Rain Stops Falling

When the Rain Stops Falling
Sydney Theatre Company. Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Writer, Andrew Bovell; Designer, Hossein Valamanesh; Composer, Quentin Grant; Director / Dramaturg, Chris Drummond.

Diverse forces have forged this new Australian theatrical epic through its generous creative gestation, commenced in 2005.

Innovative Adelaide theatre company Brink Productions’ 2008 Adelaide Festival triumph When The Rain Stops Falling opened in Sydney shortly before its London premiere.

The process started with a concept – humanity’s relationship to the planet, the unknown and one another. A collaborative, experimental workshop with actors and creatives followed, including visual artist Hossein Valamanesh, composer Quentin Grant, with writer Andrew Bovell (Lantana) only laying pen to paper after the collaborators had workshopped extensively. The diverse contributions are evident in the surprising, multi-faceted piece of theatre now offered.

Poetic theatre with Greek tragic resonances, sophisticated and complex, it approaches the type of meeting of creative forces, and generosity of development, we generally only see from international visitors at major festivals.

When The Rain Stops Falling traverses successive generations over a period of 80 years from 1959 to 2039, interweaving and overlaying human stories with environmental concerns as it traverses back and forth between London and the Australian desert.

The universe of the play is a dark place of loss, broken dreams and dark secrets, balanced somewhat with a search for identity, love, communication and belonging.
A fish falls from the sky in 2039, environmental inversion. There is torrential rain and flooding at Alice Springs. The fish motif then recurs through generations past.
Damage to the planet, frequently referenced, also becomes a metaphor for the damage inflicted from generation to generation, ending with a sign of hope on the human level.

Visually this is a stunning production. Hossein Valamanesh’s design and Niklas Pajanti’s lighting design blend seamlessly. Living characters past, present and future, often cross-generational spirits, intermingle in the simple, dreamlike stagescape, cross-fading through 80 years of time, multiple generations of family and half a planet of space. An outstanding acting ensemble unites for an engrossing performance.

At play’s end, the cessation of the cataclysmic desert rain at a small glimmer of hope in the state of human events is a vaguely unsatisfying metaphoric co-incidence. A small niggle perhaps, but the metaphor does seem to let the environmental concerns slip off the hook just a little too easily.

Occasional leaps in logic and convenient coincidences, plus a belief that there is scope for beneficially compressing the length of the production, are my only reservations about a quite compelling night of theatre.

At two hours plus without interval, a pre-show pit-stop is highly recommended.

Neil Litchfield


The Sydney Theatre Company has incorporated the Brink production of When The Rain Stops Falling into its mainstage season, at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, playing until June 13, while an MTC season will follow at the Sumner Theatre in October.

Photograph: Neil Pigot and Michaela Cantwell. Photo by Wend Lear


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