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Despite all the other ways of consuming art and entertainment, theatre persists in being successful. The reason is plays like When The Rain Stops Falling.

Unashamedly dramatic, playwright Andrew Bovell (Lantana) has perfectly and affectingly exploited every inch of the medium’s scope to convey a gnarled, complex portrait of humanity.

It was originally developed by Brink Productions, Bovell and designer Hossein Valamanesh for the 2008 Adelaide Festival of Arts, but versions of the play have since shown in Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Auckland and London. The return season of the original production starts in Adelaide and will go on to tour Brisbane, Canberra and Alice Springs.

Rain traverses time and space with hardly a thought for their relevance. Set between 1950s England and 2039 Australia — with a few stops in between — it follows four generations in a quest to escape the limitations and mysteries of the past. Defined and restricted by limited dialogue repeated by each character, the piece has been directed to within an inch of its life to squeeze the most out of every change in intonation.

So perfect is the writing that it manages to encompass myriad small themes and wrap them into the biggest of them all — the human condition. The symbols (fish, rain and segues among others) are natural, and enhance rather than confuse the meaning of the play. Each character is written with life-like realism so strong it would be impossible not to identify with them.

The actors, especially Yalin Ozucelik and Neil Pigot who play multiple roles, slide into the characters as if they’ve been waiting to play them all their lives. It is to their credit that the deep melancholy of the play is repeatedly lifted by humour, but the laughs never detract from the overall sense of drama. Spine-tingling design must be credited too, with shadows, lighting and ample blank space allowing sentiment to reverberate around the stage.

Quincy Grant’s haunting live piano soundtrack taps into your tear ducts and squeezes compassion from your cold, hard heart. The to-audience monologues, non-linear narrative and shameless use of emotional triggers in the score could never work so well anywhere but on a stage, and an audience could never be so directly engrossed in another medium.

When The Rain Stops Falling might not reflect everybody’s life, but it will make everybody reflect. Written specifically for Australians, it reminds us that everyone has a soul. Everyone who has a soul should see it.

The details: When The Rain Stops Falling, presented by the Queensland Theatre Company, opens tonight at the Playhouse in Brisbane. The show tours to Canberra, at The Playhouse from November 10, and Alice Spring, at the Araluen Arts Centre from November 19.

*Want more theatre reviews? Visit Crikey blog Curtain Call

Peter Fray

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