Never have I laughed out loud so much at a show which has left me feeling so hollow. This is dark humour at its most inventive and its most bleak. The wit of When It Rains is unique, generated mostly through the use of a robotic voiceover and text projected onto a backdrop, both of which provide a dry commentary on the lives of the four characters whose lives fall apart over the course of the piece.
When It Rains is an incredibly innovative piece of meta-theatre, as comic as it is tragic.
When It Rains describes itself as ‘a live-action existential graphic novel’. To produce such an aesthetic, the props and scenery are all projections on a backdrop. Not only are the bold images produced by this technique aesthetically intriguing and often comically bizarre, they are also used to add to the sense of alienation between characters. Alan (Anthony Black) Sybil (Francine Deschepper) Anne (Samantha Wilson) and Louis (Pierre Simpson) are visually hemmed in by their projected surroundings. As three-dimensional people in a two dimensional world, the characters are separated by the shadows of unpassable objects, creating an acute awareness of their incapacity to become closer in a physical or emotional sense.
The set thus seems both conducive to and the product of the characters’ psychological state. This uneasy reciprocal relationship ties in with the questions about fate and coincidence which the piece explores as the characters become victims of highly improbable tragic sequences. We become unsure whether the voiceover is a deus ex machina or – as the cynical Alan says of chance, before he becomes its victim – just “probability taken personally.”
The voices of the characters are given a slight echo to add to the hollow bleakness of the piece. This is highly effective in its darker moments, for there is a sense that characters talk past each other when in conversation. On the other hand, it can be hard to tell during some of the more light-hearted and warm scenes whether such reserve remains a directorial decision or is the result of slightly lacklustre acting. Generally speaking, however, all four cast members give controlled performances which balance the tragic and the comic aspects of the play.
When It Rains is an incredibly innovative piece of meta-theatre, as comic as it is tragic. To watch it is an experience I cannot quite describe, but I can guarantee you won’t see anything else quite like it.