16 October 2009

When the Rain Stops Falling

MIAF 2009
When the Rain Stops Falling

Melbourne Theatre Company, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Brink Productions
12 October 2009
Sumner Theatre


When the Rain Stops Falling is already on it’s way to becoming one of those rare productions that will resonate way beyond its seasons and future theatre goers will wish that they were there.

A production opened in London in May this year and another heads to Broadway in March next year. You have the chance to see the original cast and company that created it. If you still talk about seeing or missing Cloudstreet (I missed it) or Nichloas Nickleby (I saw it), you must not miss this opportunity.

When the Rain Stops Falling is for anyone who yearns for someone’s eyes to light up when they enter a room, or known that love is abhorrent, or broken the heart of someone they loved because it was kinder than destroying their soul, or survived, or been broken, or wished for courage, or believed in redemption.

Our commercial theatre companies have a different raison d’ĂȘtre to our independent wonders. They have to please a very large, somewhat conservative audience who are happy to pay a reasonable price for a nice night out. So, sometimes, the rest of us don’t love the fare our big stages give their audiences. If you’re one of those who avoid the MTC, cast aside all preconceptions and see When the Rain Stops Falling (and the Apocalypse Bear Trilogy) this festival.

It might help to know that it was created by Adelaide’s Brink Productions for the 2008 Adelaide Festival of Arts, and it makes me wonder if perhaps the best theatre in this country is being created in the town I no longer live in.

Andrew Bovell (who wrote, among other things, Lantana) let director Chris Drummond coax him back to writing for theatre. Drummond describes Brink’s approach to creation as, “We ask the artists to come with nothing prepared: to come with minimal research, with no preconceptions, no decisions and no solutions ready.” This allows for unexpected symbiotic relationships to develop between creators. Drummond continues that this “requires both confidence in your fellow artist and, more importantly, it requires a deep sense of self-confidence in your own capacity and a lack of ego – both essential qualities for this kind of work.”

The resulting play is ostensibly simple, but is layered with connections and depth and symbolism that no one artist could create on their own. Bovell’s script is beautiful, but its magic realism and non-sequential plot might be almost obvious without Quentin Grant’s music or Hossein Valamanesh’s design.

Neil Pigot will long be remembered for his performance, which at first seems mundane, but draws us into the heart of both his characters. Anna Lise Phillips leaves the audience free to cry, and Paul Blackwell, Michaela Cantwell, Kay Jamieson, Carmel Johnson, Kris McQuade and Yalin Ozucelik are equally as astonishing. They prove that when actors are involved in the creative process and given complex characters who are motivated by their hearts, it is a profession and a craft that can change people.

I don’t want to discuss the story, the plot or the characters. The process of discovery is too lovely and too painful to be pre-empted. Just give it time and trust that the early confusion and repetition will pay off.

Photo by Jeff Busby.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Check out Andrew Bovell talking about writing with courage, as part of the What I Wrote series of DVDs.  

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