When the Rain Stops Falling

JAMES MACNAMARA recommends a show that will leave you in unbitter tears.

arthur sturridge Edward Eustace Emma Stirling Hellie Cranney james macnamara when the rain stops falling

ADC Theatre, Tue/Wed £8/£6, Thu – Sat £10/£8

Dir. Emma Stirling

It is unnerving encountering a large number of television screens lining a stage, with their faint, menacing crackle and eerie immobility. Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel settles us in, its delicate arpeggios cueing calm emotion, firing up the parts of our brain that must process this harrowing play into an active, receptive state.

Edward Eustace, a compelling stage presence as ever, utters the first sound – a guttural scream to the heavens. A fish falls from the sky. It would be an unusual event now; in 2039 it is one of enormous significance: fish are thought to be extinct. The fish is a central object in a play that revolves around the potency of biblical symbolism. The rain, very beautifully manifested within the permanently affixed television screens, is another. A blood red desert streaks its way in between. It is a space that unites, and perhaps destroys, the characters in this play.

Andrew Bovell’s script manages to balance these symbols, but is also crafted with a sense of rhythm and deftness in structuring narrative. Lines echo in the mouths of many speakers, actions are repeated; relationships form and break in ways that sound across the large flickers of space and time that the play inhabits. It is woven tightly but unravels when it should: the balancing of dialogue with lyrical monologue keeps the play twisting and untwisting in ways that keep the structure alive.

Emma Stirling’s direction enhances these aspects of the script whilst supplementing them. Apart from the aesthetic decisions like the television screens, Stirling uses blocking to utilise the script’s filmic qualities. Characters not interacting share the stage, live through the same rooms and move through space with their future selves, spectres that allow the ghosts of previous or future events to haunt the present. It could easily have become cluttered or distracting. Stirling manages to make it an essential aspect of realising the action of the play.

And the acting is uniformly subtle and expressive. Arthur Sturridge and Hellie Cranney must be recognised for their dedication to the most difficult scene. Their performance of the terrible, complex circumstance is understated, wise and controlled. It achieves real emotional force.

However, it is not a perfect production. Exchanges did not always sparkle. Often characters remained too long in profile, obscuring faces and undermining vocal expression. And though Andrew Bovell’s script is innovative, it sacrifices linguistic pleasures for those of narrative. It is littered with lines that are either flat or flirt with the clichéd – the ‘bitter tears’ of the opening monologue being a salient example.

Despite these flaws, this is a brave and affecting ADC main show that will powerfully involve you in its workings. In future weeks we have musicals, Stoppard and pantomimes. It is worth seeing When the Rain Stops Falling before this mist leaves us. It will give many of you the opportunity to leave a theatre in tears, which is a special experience. Attend, before happier times are upon us.