“They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They do not mean to but they do / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra just for you,” recites Lucy Davidson, director of the upcoming production of When The Rain Stops Falling. “That sums up the whole play!” she announces gleefully. Philip Larkin’s famous poem doesn’t quite seem to fit the mood of our sun-soaked sipping of Swedish coffee on a Friday afternoon — but cast members Charlie O’Brien and Georgiana Day vehemently agree.
And not long into our chat, I can see why. Set against a climate disaster of unending rainfall (“the clue is in the title”), Andrew Bovell’s multi-award-winning family drama follows Gabriel Law (Charlie O’Brien) as he ventures into the Australian bush intent on finding out what his alcoholic mother refuses to tell him: why his dad disappeared. But the journey “takes him a lot of places he doesn’t expect” as he unknowingly retraces his father’s footsteps and finds first love alongside parts of himself that he’s never had to encounter until now.
At the heart of the play is an exploration of the unabating power of inherited legacies to dictate our actions, manifest through four generations of two families, flitting between domestic London and rural Australia. Gabriel and Gabrielle (Georgiana Day) are each burdened by their own hereditary issues, which the play delves into through its “famously” complicated non-linear structure, skirting between different generations of the characters. Although challenging, the unique anti-chronology invites the cast, and the audience, to a deeper insight into the characters’ psychologies. “There’s so much to explore because the whole play is about the backstory,” reflects Charlie. “It gives you so much to be able to say ‘he does this because of this’. You have such an understanding of who the character is.” For Georgiana, who plays the younger iteration of Gabrielle, wrestling with a multi-generational character is as much on the stage as it is in the mind. “Watching the other actress Katrina [Johnstone] play ‘me’, I started to look at how she was holding herself, how she says some of the similar lines. It was picking up on that, and seeing if I could maybe intertwine how she is with how I am.”
The play and everything about it is, as Lucy puts it, “big.” Big themes, big questions, big set-up — dramatic punchline. At more than one point the three have to catch one another’s tongues with a swift cry of “no spoilers!” But what can we expect? “There is a sense of devastation and things go really, really wrong,” stresses Lucy. Georgiana, however, remains optimistic. “There are definitely moments of light there,” she assures me. “You see blossoms of love which is amazing, especially when there’s so much darkness in other people’s relationships.” Lucy disagrees: “those moments of levity make it more devastating when things do go wrong.”
With its exploration of inherited trauma, family and free will, it seems unsurprising that being moved is on the cards, stoics not exempt. After all, as Georgiana muses “everybody has a family, or even if you don’t, the lack of family can be completely defining”. “Coming away and seeing why parents act the way they do,” relates Charlie, “makes you look behind the scenes a little more. There are no real antagonists — only people who antagonise.” Shocking, sad, funny but forever bleak, Lucy testifies that the play reminds us that we’re “all affected by the people around us, and that’s the thing that matters: people.”
When The Rain Stops Falling opens tonight at Bedlam Theatre and runs until the 9th.
Image: Andrew Perry