What Happens "When the Rain Stops Falling"

When the Rain Stops Falling gives us insight on a dysfunctional family through multiple decades while experiencing the unnatural changes of the world. The play begins in the 1960s with Elizabeth and Henry Law in a quaint flat in London, England. The couple unexpectedly have a son, Gabriel. Henry leaves the family due to his actions, fleeing to Australia. This then brings us to the next decade of 1988 with Elizabeth, now 56 years old and Gabriel at age 28. Elizabeth’s health has worsened, and Gabriel decides it’s time to see what Australia holds for him. During his adventure, Gabriel meets Gabrielle York. The romance begins with a rocky, unknowing start but the pair fall in love.

Shortly after, Gabrielle finds out she is pregnant with Gabriel’s baby, but he unfortunately passes in a car accident. Time then fast forwards to 2013 Australia with 50-year-old Gabrielle and Joe Ryan, 50, her husband. Gabrielle named her son Gabriel after his biological father with his full name being Gabriel York. The marriage between Gabrielle and Joe comes to an end as Gabriel is then abandoned, just as his father was. The time hops all the way to 2039 Australia where we see the same behavior repeated as Andrew Price meets his estranged father, Gabriel York at age 50, living in a shabby apartment with little to no money or connection. The world is now stricken with food scarcity, an economic crisis, and abnormal weather patterns. Throughout the relationships between the characters, we see how the earth changes in resources and the way the planet reacts to the character’s choices. 

The Law and York Family Tree

This was created by the Cynget Theatre while producing When the Rain Stops Falling to explain the connections of the characters. With this, we can understand the generational repetitive actions that involve the change in climate.   

Through the Ecodramaturgical Lens

Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Failling shows us the possible outcome of our environment through the lens of the “modern” family. The connection between the family’s generational implications and the response of the environment is a practice identified through Wendy Aron and Thersea May’s term ecodramaturgy.

Ecodramaturgy is a term describing theatre and performance making that puts focus on ecological reciprocity and community at the center of its theatrical and thematic intent (Arons and May 4). The concept of ecodramaturgy is separated into three categories of sociological/ecological justice, how the family is impacted by the weather, and the interconnection between the environment and the characters (_____). Bovell touches on two of three of these, the sociological/ecological justice and the interconnection of the environment and characters.

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Listen to this curated playlist of claiming rain to elevate your reading experience!

The sociological and ecological justice is touched on in the play at several points bringing our attention to equality among society and the ecosystem. We see this take shape at the very beginning of the play with Gabriel York in 2039 Alice Springs, AU. Gabriel has come across a fish that falls from the sky and says, “If I was to purchase such a fish, if purchasing such a fish as this was still possible for the man in the street, it would cost me a year’s wages” (Bovell 97). This quote alone addresses both social and ecological situations with the unhealthy wage and scarcity of fish. We have all experienced seeing animals become endangered due to the climate crisis such as koalas. An animal as simple as a fish could one day be known as equivalent to a dinosaur with the next generation. The sociological change in wage is something changing faster than 2039 is approaching. The depletion of the middle class is current and changes everyday aspects such as food scarcity. We see throughout the play that the family’s main source of sustenance is fish soup, already giving them a lower status but the fish becomes a privilege in 2039 when Andrew meets his estranged father, Gabriel York (Bovell 1454). This touches on the status of the family and how it evolves as the world changes.

These non-human actions are in constant conversation with the humans involved in the environment. The weather around the characters is in constant reaction to the situations taking place. This is what Bovell captures in his play as he plays with the connection between the family’s actions and consequences to the environment around them. Bovell mentions in his interview with Paul Andrews, that this connection of legacy and generational mistakes will bring us to relate it to our climate situation as we continue to make the same mistakes as our ancestors.

Most of the play notes that there is rain throughout the scenes that take place in London. The scenes were major life problems explicitly note the weather in the dialogue such as page 842 when Gabrielle is talking about her missing brother and there is a stage note of rumbling thunder before she spoke about the incident. The association of thunder sets the scene of the harsh topic Gabrielle is about to tell Gabriel York. There is a scene in 2013 Adelaide, AU where Joe and Older Gabrielle are sitting on a bench as it snows. Joe notes in this scene, “The weather is turning against us. It should not be snowing in Adelaide” (Bovell 1269). The couple then gets into an argument about where they stand as a couple. The current weather threatening the usual climate patterns coincides with the intense change in the relationship between Gabrielle and Joe. The relationship between father and son continues to bring connection with the environment with Henry’s letters to Gabriel. Henry mentions on page 1234, “Dear Gabriel...the waves smash against the cliffs with relentless power. And with each onslaught the earth gives way another inch. I miss you…” Henry uses the current weather to connect to his estranged son through the letters he sends which makes the reader unconsciously think of the weather. This interconnection goes beyond the just environmental state of nature though.  

The connection of nature and human through climate surrounds those in the play just as it does through what is natural to humans. Bovell plays with the idea between human nature versus betrayal of natural society. Henry Law is accused of touching a boy and his wife, Elizabeth, finds pictures of naked children in his belongings. Placed perfectly in the dialogue, Elizabeth tells Henry about her encounter with the police’s visit on the accusations, “I said this is not right. How dare you accuse my husband of such a thing. Against nature. And I sent them on their way, Henry” (Bovell 1179). Henry even mentions this reference to nature when he says, “What kind of man am I? What in nature makes a man like me?” (Bovell 1192). Both Elizabeth and Henry note that nature is connected to the actions of Henry and how this shapes the plot of the play. The connections we see goes beyond those written explicitly in the scenes but how our characters make decisions that go against our norms.

Ecodramaturgy helps us classify themes of sociological and ecological justice and interconnection of non-human and humans in plays. When using this type of analysis, we understand how our characters showcase the environment in a more entertaining way for our audience to draw relatability to the situation. Andrew Bovell showcases both examples with the way he presents the Law family through generations and their actions coinciding with the decline of the natural world. With problems such as marital strife, pedophilia, and class struggles, we see how the environment prompts these moments.

Follow along to the timeline created to show the references of historical ecological disasters and other important information referenced to in the text.