JOYCE MCMILLAN on WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 9.2.15. ___________________________________________________
4 stars ****
THE PAST IS A MYSTERY, says the quotation on the programme; yet perhaps it will be easier to explain than the fish. It’s a sentence that captures some of the strange, powerful atmosphere of this fine 2008 play by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell, now given its Scottish premiere by young shoestring Glasgow company Makeshift Broadcast. When The Rain Stops Falling is in one sense a family saga, of a familiar kind. Over two hours, its story moves from London in 1959 to Alice Springs in 2039, a quarter-century hence; yet instead of a chronological narrative, Bovell offers a series of flashbacks and double-forwards, designed to expose both the history of trauma and loss that links one generation to the next, and the backdrop of gradual environmental destruction that many of the characters half-foresee.
It’s a tragic story, sometimes agonisingly so; but both Katherine Nesbitt’s fine, forceful production – with its running motif of umbrellas used as signposts to dates and places – and Bovell’s stunning text, approach it with a poetic energy and eloquence that completely grip the attention. Like much 21st century drama, Bovell’s play touches on themes of child abuse, dementia, the cruelty of parents to children, and vice versa. Yet it also vibrates with a deep, mysterious sense of the great Australian landscape to which the characters flee and return, and of the broken relationship with nature that underpins so much of our pain; its poetry is stunning, and impressively well-served by Makeshift’s eight-strong ensemble, who take on one of the most powerful new plays of the past decade, and do it more than justice.