Rain

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

sophie ainscough

at 15:28 on 17th Aug 2011

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Written and directed by Jonathon Carr and Tom Vickers, and produced by Katie Lambert, Rain is truly unique in its conception and utterly engrossing in its experience of story-telling.

Entering the roof top terrace does not feel like entering a stage. One by one as the audience steps through the door we are shaken by the hand and invited to admire the jars of rain hanging round the terrace, labelled with the time and place of their location, before taking a seat. The chairs are arranged against the walls, creating a central space which is relaxed and intimate. Audience interaction is natural and effortless. When an umbrella accidently falls down from its position above our heads and is blown across the floor by the wind it is acknowledged in an aside remark rather than detracting from the realness of the world before us. When the father, Adam Alcock, displays his varying jars of rain to sell, the proclaimed purpose of the audience’s presence, I genuinely feel like I should politely refuse, or obligingly get out my purse. Rain is not the only thing which is bottled here: trapped fish must be set alight for freedom, and people in love preserved in jars. Beneath the light-hearted entertainment of the stories there is a disturbing darkness, a threatening brooding to the joviality of the father which rises to the surface in occasional words and hints. Rain presents a father daughter relationship which is both loving and obsessive, touching but simultaneously unnerving.

Francesca Murray-fuentus is absolutely captivating as the rain-seller’s daughter. Her childish glee and enthusiasm for her father’s rain and stories is infectious. Their relationship feels genuine and when the father loses his temper and slaps his daughter and she cowers crying in a corner it feels real, and I don’t know where to look. It is hard to distinguish truth from tale as Francesca receives a letter from her mother and reveals the “real”, secret reason for her father’s fundraising, to buy a red hot air balloon to visit her on the moon. As she asks a member of the audience to write a response for her, and tying it to a red balloon releases it into the early evening sky, waving and shouting until it is out of sight, I am moved almost to tears. As the audience leaves the terrace there is a sense of unity created by the intimacy of the performance. Think of me when it rains, Francesca reminds as she prepares to say good night, and Rain is certainly a performance which will stay in memory long after its characters have gone to sleep.

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Ingrid Jendrzejewski

at 11:39 on 18th Aug 2011

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‘Rain’ has a most unusual premise. Each member of the audience is a person who has been invited into the home of a man so obsessed with rain that he hoards it in bottles annotated with details about when and where the sample was collected. He has invited a select group of people to view his collection and, he hopes, purchase some of his rain. The rain collector is joined in his sales pitch by his daughter, a delightful, innocent girl who loves stories and who believes her mother lives in the moon.

The show starts when the rain collector invites the audience into his home – a small, square, outdoor space nestled between the second and third floor of C. About 20 chairs are set around the perimeter, and the walls are covered with maps and glass jars of rainwater. Nothing can be seen but the walls and open sky and the terrace is high enough that the noise from the street hardly penetrates. It is quirky and intimate; the father and daughter seem right at home and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect location.

Over the course of an hour, the two characters intersperse their sales pitch with the stories the girl loves so much – stories that, when considered together, suggest that something deeply unsettling is going on in this small family.

The writing is fresh and innovative. I never found myself trying to guess what was coming next because I was so engaged with the present. The audience is given just enough information to put together a picture of what is going on in this curious family, without spelling things out too explicitly.

Francesca Murray Fuentes scintillates as the daughter. She is spontaneous and effervescent. She throws herself into the daughter’s bubbly, charming innocence with abandon and is an absolute joy to watch. I felt genuinely guilty about leaving her behind with her father at the end of the performance.

Adam Alcock has a youthful energy that’s hard to disguise given how close the actors are to the audience, so there were times when I found it a bit difficult to believe in him as a father. However, I hung on every word he had to say about rain, he is an engaging storyteller and he knows how to make the most out of moments of silent.

I couldn’t help but be drawn into their strange little world. I really felt that I was entering some place different, a place where people might really be living an odd, off-kilter existence that would continue to exist once I was back on the streets of Edinburgh. There was the odd occasion in which the spell was broken; in particular, an important moment after the daughter spills some rain felt more staged than most everything else. This, the age of the actors and a few aspects of the set served as reminders that this was a student production, but this didn’t spoil the overall effect. The illusion lasted until the end of the performance; no one clapped as we left because the rain collector’s daughter was asleep and we didn’t want to wake her. This in itself is a testament to how well ‘Rain’ works.

Unwish Theatre has created something original, unusual and well worth seeing.

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