Written by Andrew Bovell, Directed by Peter Scrine
Review by Justin Clarke
Arcadian’s Theatre Group’s production of Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling presents well rounded characters, a stunning set with enhanced visuals and well-thought-out directorial choices that make it more than your typical community theatre production.
The play begins its oddity in Alice Springs 2039 as we meet Gabriel York (Will Madden), battling against a heavy rain, lost, and frustrated he screams… and then a fish drops at his feet still smelling of the sea. From here, a collection of vignettes introduces us to a seemingly disconnected selection of people across eighty years. Their only similarities are the fish soup that each story begins with and the steady rain that continuously falls outside a suspended window above the stage. Yet, the stories that are revealed to us are more connected than you might think.
David Thomas’ set design is positively stunning. Thomas has removed the proscenium in the Miner’s Lamp Theatre, bringing expansive space to the stage and offering room to play with the scenery. Above, an amalgamation of white electrical piping is cut at different lengths, offering the illusion of an outline of hills and mountains. In front of it, seven umbrella hooks dangle evenly across the stage. And in the centre, a large dining room table sits on an outlined section of linoleum flooring. The overall design is striking and professionally developed.
McKenzee Scrine’s sound design and rainfall projections envelop you into the world of the play right as you take your seat. A soft smattering of rain comes throughout, it is never overwhelming but gently upholds the illusion of the world. The effectiveness of this comes in the final moments of the play when the sound ceases, and your ears immediately registerthe quiet.
It is always a pleasure to be wowed by local performers and community theatre groups who offer visually stunning pieces of theatre with precision and nuance.
There is a beautiful understatement that Peter Scrine has built into his production, offering simple suggestions through his directorial choices. With a focus on the relationships between characters, the underlying meaning of our constant search for identity is highlighted. As each of the seven characters watch from underneath the LED-lit cut out at the back of the stage, Scrine neatly implies the notion of relationships crossing eras and leaving an imprint on who we are as people.
Adding effective details such as the falling of the fish at the entrance of the play, and a simple smattering of snow from the lighting rig, were impressive touches by Scrine that you don’t often see used in community theatre productions.
Playing the different characters of Bovell’s story are Fran Curtis as Elizabeth Law (Older), Alana Maclean–Dowling as Gabrielle York (Younger), Kerry Dowling as Joe Ryan, Domanique Geerling as Gabrielle York (Older), Melanie Ringer as Elizabeth Law (Younger), Jack Michel as Gabriel Law/Andrew Price and Darryl Bryant as Henry Law.
For an actor, this is a gift of a play. The writing grants many a moment to delve deeper into Bovell’s characters. Shining as the two young lovers, ironically named Gabrielle and Gabriel, Maclean-Dowling and Michel have a palpable chemistry. Their story arc resonates as the strongest amongst the mix of tales told, and pleasure to follow their journey. Michel holds a stable, convincing London accent throughout and offers a sincere and convincing performance, whereas Maclean-Dowling dives headfirst into the emotional trauma of her character without it ever being overdramatic.
There were moments throughout when voices couldn’t be heard due to lack of projection. This led to a dragging of the energy parts, losing the impact of the main themes. As well as this, the choice to have no intermission sometimes affected the pacing of the play. The energy throughout needed to be consistent to overcome this foreseen issue.
Building onto the already brilliantly constructed set, Lachlan O’Dea’s lighting design is wonderfully crafted. The most stunning use of shadows came from the two lights which shone into the back entrances of the stage, allowing for the haze to add depth to the already expansive stage. There were moments when small lighting changes moved in between stage, which gave the illusion that the setting had shifted in the middle of a scene which caused some distraction and interruption to the scene itself.
Arcadians Theatre’s production of When the Rain Stops Falling is a welcome gem in the Wollongong theatre community that should be seen, thought of and discussed. It is always a pleasure to be wowed by local performers and community theatre groups who offer visually stunning pieces of theatre with precision and nuance.
When the Rain Stops Falling plays at the Miner’s Lamp Theatre in Corrimal until 19th March 2022. Tickets can be booked via the Trybooking link here.
Director: Peter Scrine
Set Designer: David Thomas
Sounds & Visual Design: McKenzee Scrine
Light Design: Lachlan O’Dea
Stage Manager: Laura Whalan
Wardrobe: Nyla Collis
Properties: Marie Mitchell-Stanley
Music Composition: Finn Bradfield