Left – Steve Turner. Cover – Fiona Pepper and Scott Sheridan. Photos – Gary Marsh
The cyclical, melodic nature of Andrew Bovell’s text in When the Rain Stops Falling has the potential to lull the audience into a false sense of security, before hitting them in the face with some brutal, heart wrenching (and gasp inducing) storylines.
The latest production from Black Swan State Theatre Company, and the last one for their 2011 season, is a haunting, head spinning piece that will leave you thinking long into the night. Four generations of interconnected stories about the Law family are told in short, similar scenes over two hours. The play opens in 2039, when a fish falls from the sky in Alice Springs, and weaves backwards and forwards between the 1950’s, 1980’s, 2013 and 2039.
There is a family tree in the program, and I am thankful I had a look at it before the show (and a longer look afterwards). If you miss the subtitles reminding the audience where you are and which era, it is easy to get confused, even though there are only seven characters.
Simple, subtle lighting by Trent Suidgeest compliments effective sound by Ben Collins. A simple angled floor is the main playing space, and is occupied only by a long table, benches and chairs. A pot of soup (fish soup) sits on the table throughout. Designer Bryan Woltjen makes effective use of multiple black scrims flying in and out to create doorways, windows, and openings. The use of (presumably plastic) clear hanging rods that flew in and out was an interesting touch. I realised afterwards that much of that design would have been hard to pull off at the old Playhouse.
This is an ensemble cast, ably directed by Adam Mitchell, best known to Black Swan audiences for his work with the Hotbed Ensemble. He has drawn out of this cast a fluid production, graceful and elegant, although, as he says in the program, the (characters’) “honesty and complications are intricate and messy”.
Fiona Pepper and Vivienne Garrett play Gabrielle York in different eras, as do Julia Moody and Alison van Reeken who play Elizabeth Law (this connection took me a while to make I confess). Igor Sas as Joe Ryan is the one true unconnected member of family, and feels like purely a supporting character.
Scott Sheridan, a relative newcomer to Black Swan, was emotive in his portrayal of Gabriel Law, and his accent was quite impressive. However, my thoughts keep returning to the multi talented Steve Turner, who played two of the central characters; Henry Law (1950’s) and Gabriel York (2039). He both opens and closes the play as Gabriel, yet it is Henry’s character that brings so much pain and hurt for generations. Turner played Henry with understated angst, making his later scenes extremely powerful.
It is the words that are the star in this show. Rhythmic and poetic, yet raw and halting at the same time, Bovell has created a piece that draws the audience in before they realise it, gives them a little shake, but leaves them feeling like there is hope in the world.
Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
When The Rain Stops Falling
by Andrew Bovell
Director Adam Mitchell
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: 29 October – 13 November 2011
Tickets: Standard $64.50 | Concession $49.50