At a time like this, it perhaps already feels like the world is ending, and the rain never stops falling (physically, or metaphorically). In Andrew Bovell's play- the first Sedos production of the year at Bridewell Theatre- they are thinking the same. Over six different time periods spanning from 1959 to 2039, and a variety of locations between London and Australia, the weather is abysmal, and the story is beginning with a gripping outburst at a stock pot.
Gabriel York (played by Sam Barnes) is alone in his flat and facing strong emotions as he makes an unexpected fish soup. Left stunned by his daughter's call to meet twenty years after they last saw each other, it becomes immediately evident that the fractures caused by past family relations are central to this piece. Each character then makes their way down from the balcony, which is used fairly effectively across the performance, and puts their coat and umbrella upon the rack, before making their way to seats at the back of the stage, where the cast sit when they are not forefront of the show, and waiting to move in.
Taking in turns, each pair bring to life their own rendition of the fish soup origin, before branching out, as their individual narratives all join to become one. Elizabeth Law (Marina Norman) and Henry Law (David Pearson) are the furthest back on the timeline, and are shown to be experiencing their married life together, before having a baby boy named Gabriel (James Tibbles). In another scene, the audience learn of a man's disappearance on Ayers Rock, when Gabriel is speaking to his mother, now older (Audrey Lindsay), of which she refuses to speak of, yet he is fascinated by, so sets off to Australia, determined to find out more. There, he meets local girl Gabrielle York (Freya Thomas), and they become closer as they reveal more about each other. The last account is of Gabrielle once older (Karla Ptacek) and her then partner Joe Ryan (Marcus Ezekiel).
For some, it may be a little confusing to get your head around at first, as putting the pieces of the story together in the right order does take a bit of concentration and mind work, but soon after the plot develops, what is built begins to fall into place. Due to the different eras and settings, along with the similar names, it is beneficial to use the family tree given to initially establish the placement of each character in their timeframe. The set does stay the same throughout which lacks creativity a little, but use of costumes relevant to each age are imperative, along with repetition and references that link the parts to allow the wider narrative to be understood. Transitions between scenes, and discipline with regards to the movement of characters in and out of their parts is highly commendable, which is directed by Kimberly Barker, along with the lighting use that faultlessly works in conjunction with this. To imitate snow or stars, and with other appearances throughout, lighting designer, Olly Levett, does a lovely job with navigating these. The thunder and lightning that accompany the constant rainfall is a fitting addition too.
In parts, this show can feel as if it needs more substance, particularly within the first act, where elements are perhaps harder to decipher, though the second is definitely a redemption as the histories of each generation intertwine and make sense. Because of this, it may appear to be needing more impact and depth in areas but the drawing together of the whole cast of characters with their props passed through the family and joining stories makes for a sweet, cleverly articulated and thought provoking end to the piece. What does life become, if the rain ever stops?
When The Rain Stops Falling, directed by Helena Bumpus, is overall a play that will leave you figuring out the meanings and passages of its character's lives long after you've left the theatre. The scenes alone may seem like nothing special, but once constructed, the show is transformed into something piquant by the end.