Inspired by Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes In London and PT Anderson’s Magnolia, the Kindling Collective’s When The Rain Stops Falling is a pan-generatonal tale that spans the globe. Written by Andrew Covell and directed by Gemma Maddock, the play is ‘intimate’ in the sense that most scenes revolve around two people talking, yet its themes are ‘epic’ in their scope – channeling the Greek tragedies, with the ‘sins of the fathers visiting the sons’. However, this notion is also subverted – with children also bringing pain their parents and mothers having inscrutable reasons for their actions.
The opening of the play, set in 2039, sees Gabriel York (Paul Gerrard) receiving a phone call from son Andrew (Tony Giroux) who he hasn’t seen since he was a child. Initially despairing that he won’t be able to offer Andrew anything substantial to eat, a fish falls out of the sky and lands at his feet. What makes this event all the more remarkable is that the town of Alice Springs isn’t anywhere near a body of water and at this point in time, fish are all but extinct…
Asides from the narrative with Gabriel and his son, we’re introduced to Gabriel’s grandmother Elizabeth (Vivienne Smith) in London and her son (Tony Giroux) who is also called ‘Gabriel’. Because of Elizabeth’s silence about the past, ‘London Gabriel’ decides to go to Australia, to the last place that his father sent a postcard. We also see what happens to Gabriel in the Southern Hemisphere when he meets his ‘namesake’, his mother during the early days of her marriage in 1959, and with Joe (Maxwell Sly) who finds his wife wants to leave him because he doesn’t measure up to the memory of her ‘great love’.
To faciliate the fluidity of the scenes, the whole cast are choreographed to convey the movement of time, as well as the world in which they live.
Just as in Magnolia, while the Fortean incidents at the beginning of the play can be put down to extraordinary coincidence, the play as a whole suggests that forces greater than chance play important roles in life – that unless there’s closure, emotional trauma will resurface time and time again. As much the fabric of people as physical DNA.
As the Kindling Collective’s inaugural production, When The Rain Stops Falling has a lot of promise and more ideas in one show than most theatre companies have in five. I particularly liked the attention paid to subtext, the detailed cultural references whose importance to the plot later becomes apparent, and using the same phrases in completely different contexts. All these things reinforce the idea of synchronicity and JB Priestley’s circular notion of time.
Be warned: the revelations at the end of the play do pack a punch, but the fact that one doesn’t twig about the significance of everything until near the very end is a testament to the writing and the general level of acting in the troupe.
© Michael Davis 2019
When The Rain Stops Falling runs at Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 29th September (4pm).