When The Rain Stops Falling

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

30/07/2011 - 27/08/2011

Production Details

“Compelling and fascinating – it unrolls stories to touch all hearts. Don’t miss it.” – Messenger Press

A fish falls from the sky. It flops at the feet of a man in a threadbare suit. Unusual, given that the man is in Alice Springs, surrounded by desert.

Miraculous, even, because it is 2039 and fish are almost extinct. But the man, Gabriel York, does not believe in miracles. He has more pressing things to think about.

Intriguing from the start, Andrew Bovell’s award- winning drama is powerful storytelling that spans four generations and two continents. It takes us on a fascinating journey that stretches back to ‘50s London before returning to the future, revealing how the voices of the past echo into the lives of the following generations.  

The story follows Gabriel Law, as he retraces his father’s footsteps in an attempt to solve the mystery of his disappearance. The only clues to his fate lie in seven recently discovered postcards from Australia, each more cryptic than the last. The final one is postmarked Uluru.

Andrew Bovell is best known for his award winning film Lantana (based on the play Speaking In Tongues), and for co-writing the original screenplay for Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom. Bovell also co-wrote the screenplay for Edge Of Darkness (2010).

When the Rain Stops Falling was the surprise hit of the 2008 Adelaide Festival and has gone on to win a swathe of awards including a Ruby Award for Best Work, two Adelaide Critics’ Circle Awards, the Louis Esson Prize for Drama at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award. It has been performed from London to New York – gaining rave reviews …

“WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING will be etched in my brain forever” – Arts Hub

"Beautiful, profoundly moving drama" – Sunday Telegraph

“Utterly compelling … superb” – Michael Billington, Guardian

“This is theatre of rare intricacy and resonance” – Sydney Morning Herald

“A play of astonishing ambition and emotional power” – Time Out

“Stunning .. words are insufficient, you must see this show to understand how exceptional it is.Once seen it will never be forgotten.” – Adelaide Theatre Guide

30th July – 27th August
Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
$25 SPECIALS – Friday 29 July – 8pm; Sunday 31 July – 4pm 
AFTER SHOW FORUM – Tuesday 2 August
Performance times:
Tuesday & Wednesday – 6.30pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday – 8pm
Sunday – 4pm
Ticket Prices:
Adults – $46; Concessions – $38;
Friends of Circa – $33
Under 25s – $25; Groups 6+ – $39
Circa Theatre,            1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Phone 801 7992 www.circa.co.nz  

Gabriel York                           JASON WHYTE
Elizabeth Law (older)            DONNA AKERSTEN
Gabriel Law                           RICHARD CHAPMAN
Elizabeth Law (younger)       ALISON WALLS
Henry Law                             JASON WHYTE
Joe Ryan                               CHRISTOPHER BROUGHAM
Gabrielle York (older)            JUDE GIBSON
Gabrielle York (younger)       SOPHIE HAMBLETON
Andrew Price                        RICHARD CHAPMAN

Set Design               JOHN HODGKINS
Lighting Design        MARCUS McSHANE
Video Design            JOHANN NORTJE
Costume Design      SHEILA HORTON
Music Composition
and Sound Design    GARETH HOBBS

Stage Manager            Eric Gardiner
Technical Operator     Deb McGuire
Asst Stage Manager    Jodie Ellis
Choreography             Jude Gibson
Publicity                       Claire Treloar
Graphic Design           Rose Miller, Kraftwork Design
Photography                Stephen A’Court
House Manager           Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office Manager     Linda Wilson 

A must see at Circa

Review by Lynn Freeman 04th Aug 2011

You may remember just a few months ago I urged you to go and see August:Osage County at Circa. I urge you even harder to see this production. It’s that important.

Miracles can happen – but can this twisted and damaged branch of a family tree hang on? The family story Andrew Bovell tells, parallels with a planet in crisis after generations of neglect and exploitation. The play deftly time travels between 1959 and 2039 and at points in between.

While the earth is drenched in rain in the future, the family members are also drowning, be it their sorrows in alcohol, or through self imposed isolation, or in memories which overwhelm them.

Bovell makes you work hard to keep up with all the time and place changes. We have older and younger versions of the key characters. It takes some time to get to grips with all of them and how they interrelate. The play for the first half an hour is as slippery as the fish that falls from the sky within the first new minutes of the play. And that is the only surprise I will disclose.

Jason Whyte gives his best performance yet – and that is saying something – playing a grandfather and grandson, both of them seeking peace in isolation. Donna Akersten and Alison Walls are paired up as the older and younger Elizabeth, and Jude Gibson and Sophie Hambleton twinned as Gabrielle, and they pull it off as if by magic.

Christopher Brougham will have you in tears as Gabrielle’s adoring husband, and Richard Chapman completes this fantastic ensemble as the son and great grandson of the man who put the future of the family in peril. 

Susan Wilson can be extremely proud of what she and her cast achieve with this play. It’s brilliantly, poetically and densely written. But it could be so easily botched. The cast pour everything they have into their performances. Under Wilson’s assured direction, the video images (Johann Nortje), set (John Hodgkins) and lighting Marcus McShane) they gift us an unforgettable night and remind us what theatre can do that no other artform can.  
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Splendid, inspiring, engrossing

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 02nd Aug 2011

Susan Wilson seems to be able to pull out all the stops when it comes to casting and staging large scale, engrossing family dramas such as Joyful and Triumphant, Angels in America and August: Osage County. Along with her marvellous ensemble cast she has triumphed yet again with the dark, layered, but always fascinating and moving When the Rain Stops Falling.

Strange things happen during this play: it snows at Ayers Rock; a fish falls out of the sky in Alice Springs; fish soup seems to be the only food eaten; the action moves back and forth in time and place from the 1960s to 2039 between London and Australia; we follow four generations of a family riven by an event in the past and we follow how the sins of the father shall be visited upon the sons; and there is a sense of a pending apocalyptic catastrophe throughout.

The play is like a complex dance. Past and present merge and two of the characters have an older and younger self who often appear in the same scenes. It starts with a choreographed prologue of the cast walking with umbrellas in the rain; it ends with all the family sitting at a table (a visual echo of The Last Supper) and a sense of atonement.

And like the action the dialogue has repetitions (soup/rain in Bangladesh/ /Saturn/references to repainting dingy rooms) that are taken up by different characters in different times and places. At times the symbolism is overdone: three characters are called Gabriel which means the man of God and sometimes the Angel of Death; Saturn who is identified with time and devouring his own children; and the present the adult son brings to his father he has never met is something the audience knows only his alcoholic great grand-mother, whom he never met, knew. 

For all its seeming complexities it is actually straightforward to follow thanks to a family tree in the programme and the superb video design (Johann Nortje) which shows us when and where the action is taking place. But it is the outstanding cast who make it easy because they are all absolutely in tune with their characters.

Just one example out of many scenes I could mention: Jude Gibson as the elderly Gabrielle facing dementia and saying farewell, while she still knows who he is, to her loving companion who knows she has always been in love with another. It is a heart-wrenching scene and she and Christopher Brougham as the unloved Joe play it with complete conviction and a lightness of touch that keeps it from sentimentality.

The rest of the cast play their scenes with equal skill and emotion supported by Marcus McShane’s lighting and Gareth Hobbs’s music and sound design.

It’s a splendid and inspiring night at the theatre which kept the opening night audience engrossed.  

[Note: This review was published in the Dominion Post online, following the system failure that meant there was no print edition on Tuesday 2 August 2011.]
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Powerful parable; domestic in detail, biblical in scale

Review by John Smythe 01st Aug 2011

When a drop hits a puddle its ripples can have far-reaching effects. The same goes for a lie or a withheld truth. And for good actions too. The radiating circles on the central desert sand surface of John Hodgkins’ excellent set, which all patrons get to observe closely on entering and leaving Circa One, serve as a strong metaphor.

Elementally lit by Marcus McShane and incorporating evocative video design by Wellington-based VJ Johann Nortje, with powerful music and sound by Gareth Hobbs, the setting – featuring a long wooden table and seven chairs – and Sheila Horton’s subtly accurate costume designs allow the septet of actors, playing nine characters, to seamlessly navigate a family saga through four generations over 80 years.

Andrew Bovell’s sparse yet epic script plays out like a symphony, with recurring themes and motifs – both verbal and visual – causing the tale to fold back on itself even as its protagonist tries to fling himself to the farthest reaches of the globe in order to shake off the truth; and even as his son and great-grandson find their ways to Australia’s ‘dead heart-cum-red centre’, because they need to know why their fathers abandoned them.  

But the play opens in 2039. It is raining heavily in Alice Springs, a man is stressed enough to scream (I won’t reveal why) and surrealistically – miraculously? – a fish falls from the sky.

The sins of the father will be visited on the son; the road to Hell is paved with good intentions; a suppressed truth can be lethal when it finally explodes; the very act of resisting something ensures it will persist; the more things change the more they stay the same … These abiding truths anchor the play in the world we know. And when at last the truth is faced instead of avoided, when what was a desert is watered, when fresh growth and a new beginning seem possible, it can seem like a miracle.

Director Susan Wilson has aligned her first-rate cast and crew to Bovell’s brilliant play and generated as compelling a two hours of drama as you may hope to enjoy this year.  

Playing both the English progenitor, Henry Law, and his Australian grandson Gabriel York – at whose feet the fish drops – Jason Whyte commands compassion despite the revelations that inexorably surface about both characters.

In a small London flat in the 1960s, Alison Walls is superb as Henry’s highly intelligent and loving wife Elizabeth, gravitating from ebullient optimism to frustration at the constraints of motherhood then falling into deep disillusionment … Her older, bitter and sardonic self is well contained in Donna Akersten’s covertly alcoholic Elizabeth, who withholds the unpalatable truth about Henry from their son Gabriel.

Playing the two sons seeking their fathers, Richard Chapman clearly delineates the English Gabriel Law from his own Australian grandson, Andrew Price. (The programme includes a very useful family tree.) Despite his youth, or maybe because of it, Andrew has a refreshing lack of fear about the truth.

Also sharing the same role at different ages – that of Gabrielle York (mother of Gabriel York, whose father Gabriel Law died before he was born) – are Sophie Hambleton and Jude Gibson.

Hambleton captures the essence of the girl from Coorong (southeast of Adelaide) who wants to escape to a bigger world and has a hard-edged fear of love caused by the premature deaths of her brother and parents. Her scenes with Chapman are pregnant with possibility and their moment atop Uluru is riveting.

Gibson (who played the same role in the Silo production last year) is heartbreaking as the older Gabrielle whose lost life and buried guilt are manifested in early onset Alzheimer’s. As her husband, Joe Ryan, stepfather to Gabrielle’s son Gabriel, Christopher Brougham also offers a poignant portrait. Their disconnection is a microcosm of the bigger story.

If it seems like a complex tangle, fear not – the play’s mysteries are played out with an increasingly intriguing clarity. Simultaneously domestic in detail and biblical in scale, with climate change representing the forces of nature, When the Rain Stops Falling is a powerful parable for our times that transcends generations.

Will we ever get it right or is the fate of flawed humankind inexorably writ by raindrops in that eternal desert sand?


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