Fingering the programme for When the Rain Stops Falling, I turn to Katherine and stammer: “I think this is a play about sustainability.” We smile uncertainly at each other. “Yes,” she replies. “It seems it is.” I purse my lips as I examine the stage, a beautifully minimal landscape bearing a solitary crack. Sustainability is, you know, like, cool and all, but whether I’m willing to sacrifice two hours of my Monday night to it is another story altogether.

And, well, it is another story altogether. Writer Andrew Bovell – best known for Lantana and Strictly Ballroom - maps the misfortunes and mistakes of three generations spanning from London to Uluru, woven together with an unmistakably tragic thread, each running seamlessly into the next. The people change, but their patterns don’t. Time simply overlaps, culminating in a ramshackle apartment one afternoon in Alice Springs, 2039, as Gabriel York (Stephen Lovatt) sits down for lunch with his son Andrew (Simon London) for the first time in 21 years.

I resent the play at first. The opening monologue feels artificially earnest and the transitions, stilted and ambiguously symbolic. I feel unnecessarily bewildered as it progresses: it seems confusing for the sake of being confusing – for the sake of being ‘artistic’. At times the dialogue feels heavy-handed, bordering on patronising; spelling out what has already been ladled into our laps. The faint traces of absurdist theatre – most notably the repetition of certain lines – make me feel disgruntled because while they draw parallels down the bloodline, they also reduce moments of poignancy to the banal and while you can relate this back to the absurdity of human experience, ultimately they are two totally different things.

But then When the Rain takes me by surprise by improving exponentially. And I really do mean this in the most sincere sense of the term. Under Shane Bosher’s direction, the cast give incredible performances and it isn’t long before I make the leap from being immutably unenthusiastic to teetering dangerously and unwaveringly on the brink of tears. The necessity of the fragmented presentation of their lives becomes clear, gently knocking the wind out of you as it slowly unravels.

Ultimately, the play is about sustainability, just not in the way you expect. It’s a quiet reflection on the need to maintain our histories, no matter how sordid and peppered with shame they may be. It’s a reminder that history has a funny little way of sustaining itself, and that attempting to conceal that history may mean that the last truth you ever know is the very truth you spent your whole life searching for.


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