In my previous entry I wrote about the ideas out of which Andrew Bovell created When the Rain Stops Falling. Here I'd like to provide a few more concrete details about how the play has made its way in the world.
A little more than two years ago, as Bovell was starting to write Rain for its premiere at the Adelaide Festival in Australia, he got a call from Hollywood asking him to do a draft of the murder-investigation movie Edge of Darkness. (The film, which stars Mel Gibson, opens in the U.S. on January 29.) "They wanted the draft," said Bovell, "before the writers' strike. So I was juggling two deadlines: Adelaide's for the play, and Hollywood's for the movie."
What followed, said Bovell, "was a terrible 6 to 8 weeks, filled with stress. I was writing scenes for the play and emailing them to the director.. I plowed through until I reached the end. Luckily, I was able to write the second draft quite quickly, under somewhat less pressure."
The play had its world premiere in Adelaide on February 23, 2008. "The word of mouth spread," Bovell said, "and we were quickly sold out." The production met with equal success when it was done in 2009 at the Sydney Theatre Company and at the Melbourne Theatre Company; a separate staging at the Almeida Theatre in London received acclaim in spring and summer 2009. The Australian production will be revived later this year in Brisbane and receive its final performance at the location where the piece opens, Alice Springs.
I asked Bovell --whose screenplay credits include Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Lantana (2001), and who is about to go back to an earlier project, a movie version of Arthur Miller's View from the Bridge, which, coincidentally, is about to open on Broadway -- if the British response to Rain had been different from that of the Australians. "Not really," he replied. "The response was strong in both. For any audience, the first 20 or 30 minutes of the play are confusing. I'm not trying to be deliberately obscure. It's just that there are five stories to be established, and in any play or movie, the set-up is often the most difficult part." He adds: "Early on, we learn that there's a secret, and I think that that helps pull the audience through the first part."
In both the U.K. and Australia, some critics described the play as "apocalyptic." Bovell responds: "I wouldn't describe it as an apocalyptic work, although it flirts with that notion." He continues: "Part of it takes place in 2039, and we're faced with what seems to be an endless deluge. But the rain does stop falling."
I mention to Bovell that it can be tricky imagining life in the future. "Yes," he replies, "especially because in so many representations of the future humans are depicted as cold and robotic. I'm imagining a future where we are as emotionally vulnerable as we are now. That creates a level of reassurance for people, I think."
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.