Saturday, 4 May 2013

When the Rain Stops Falling, NUTS.

Student theatre is a place where the reviewer treads warily. There's a lot of not-quite-ripe talent out there, often pushing themselves in plays which are way outside their abilities, leading to something which is clearly an educational experience for the performers but means very little to an audience member.

And "When The Rain Stops Falling" should be a case in point - it's a challenging work, an epic covering almost 80 years and two different countries, beginning with a long monologue and continuing with a long scene entirely without words. It contains two love stories, three fathers with distant or non-existant relationships with their sons, several tragedies and mysteries, and at least one bone-fide miracle. The original production that played Canberra in 2010, was gorgeously cast, designed, directed and scored and is one of my top ten theatre memories. So ... how do NUTS do?

Surprisingly ... very very well. The design is simple without being sterile - a minimalist joy. Not all the performances work entirely (one or two moments get a tad histrionic or else don't quite hit the emotional notes they're aiming for) - and the usual problem of casting early-twenty-somethings as people in their forties and fifties are visible, as the age distinctions aren't entirely convincing - but there's considerable skills on display  - particularly from Abbie Jones as the younger Elizabeth Law, who is by turns witty, romantic, intelligent and heartbreaking as required. The lighting design by Owen Horton also gets major plaudits for shifting moods, times and places effortlessly. And the direction by Ellie Greenwood, assisted by Gowrie Varma, ties it all together so that this feels like one story being told, rather than several loosely arranged ones.

It's also worth noting that this was a remarkably well attended production - the night I saw it got a good solid crowd who were held rapt through 120 minutes with no intermission. NUTS is obviously doing something right, and the word is spreading.

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