“The Bureau of Meteorology has recorded 107mm in rainfall this month – compared with the usual 57mm for the full 30 days”. Train stations are under water, driving on the roads feels like you’re living out that scene from Twister, umbrellas are inverting everywhere and tonight, Not the Worst Productions happens to have scheduled it’s opening performance of Andrew Bovell’s 2008 play: When the Rain Stops Falling. Oh the irony.
When the Rain Stops Falling, penned by the same playwright of Speaking in Tongues (known more commonly to many in the form of the film Lantana) is a mind-bending story of the twisted history of a man’s family that plays on the concepts of Belonging, Love, Identity and Acceptance. In a similar fashion to Tongues, it uses interwoven storylines and timelines to blur the narrative and challenge it’s audience to pay attention to detail and piece together a mystery lined with tragedy and deceit.
Not the Worst Productions’ follow up to their 2014 production of Neil Labute’s The Shape of Things bears all of the marks of a company that has matured and progressed, to the point that it would easily be mistaken in memory for a production that one saw at the MTC.
Many aspects of this production are in short, flawless. The set design by Stephen Ritchie is simple but effective. The transparency of the suspended panels that adorn the space, beautifully accompany the intrusion of characters from other time frames in the background of the forefront scenes. Musical compositions by David Cheshire (the man worked on Lift Off!) are played effortlessly by his brother John Cheshire on a subtle piano to the side of the stage. The music is composed in such a way that one would expect film scoring to be written – it eases in and out of the scenes almost unnoticed, yet it heightens the intentions of the text so remarkably that it would almost feel criminal to play out the scenes without it.
Director David Mustafa has done an excellent job with a stellar group of actors. Mustafa has beautifully mastered the tapestry of Bovell’s complex storylines and structure. As two of the story’s protagonists, Adam May delivers a breathtakingly stunning performance. May is a truly gifted storyteller and a marvelous physical actor. Delivering perhaps the most epic opening monologue ever written, May does not drop a beat. His performance as both Gabriel York and Henry Law is engaging, disarming and heartbreakingly raw. “If I remain standing, my son won’t know that I don’t wear socks.” A line that cut through the air so fine, that my heart nearly exploded. And that was only five minutes into Act One.
The other exceptional performance in this production is that of Red Stitch alumni’s Nikki Brumen as the young Gabrielle York. Brumen is sharp, dry and delivers a performance with a vigerous bite. As reticent as the character is written, Brumen’s performance is believable and honest. She’s just a girl who tells it like it is. She’s also the reason you may wish to bring along a tissue or twelve.
For the most part, the remainder of the seven-strong cast is strong. Don Nicholson as the unwaveringly patient Joe Ryan gives an incredibly grounded and well-rounded performance – which I must commend given he is surprisingly new to the acting scene, having entered it only three years ago. Company founder Warren Logan makes for a beautifully gentle Gabriel Law, although his confusion of an English/Irish accent was at times, quite distracting. Stephanie Powell as Gabriel’s mother is cold and dogmatic. A very committed and focused performance though I did wish for a slight shift in her cold exterior in her final scene to allow for a slight display of a more colourful emotional depth. Particularly given how incredibly heightened her younger portrayal (played by the unceasingly high-pitched Catherine Jardine) was presented.
Complimenting the entire conceptual design of the production is a soundscape provided by David Ward. It truly is remarkable what a difference an intelligent combination of sound effects and music will make to a production. Lighting by Candy Cooper is creative and highly effective. A true artist who understands that when it comes to lighting in smaller theatrical spaces, often less is more.
This is a play that really does need to be seen. It’s so refreshing to see theatre that is more than mind-numbing amusement where all of the answers are served on a silver platter. And even more so to see it performed by a company who know how to deliver it.
Running for a very limited season, I implore you to buy a ticket.
When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell.
Presented by Not the Worst Productions
Brunswick Mechanics Institue
April 26 – May 6, 2017.
Photos: Ben Fon