The rain must fall
Review by Sue Gough
Karin Mainwaring is a playwright with an intuitive understanding of what makes compelling theatre. The Rain Dancers, only her second play, broke box-office records in Sydney last year.
Now it comes to Brisbane's theatre-in-the-round, La Boite, directed by the sure hand of Jim Vilé. The play poses a bleak scenario. Three generations of women share a desolate outback existence. Old Nan (Bev Langford) once had a sexual prime but is now incontinent, senile and obsessed with escaping to death. Rita (Karen Crone) is a great angry cow of a woman who needles away at the others with belligerent sarcasm. Her 25-year-old daughter Kat (Julie Sutton) has not seen a male since she was seven and rolls in the dust, having erotic fantasies.
When Rita's husband Dan returns after a 25-year absence to reclaim his property, the fuse is lit. The outcome will depend on whether or not it rains by l lam on Sunday - a clever set-up for all the inherent possibilities of suspense and gestalt.
Casting Crone as Rita was risky. She is much too young for the part but it ultimately does not matter - Crone may never convince us she's in her 40s yet totally convinces us of her dour reality. This is the most cohesively written part in the play and Crone underplays it for all its laconic savagery. Langford is equally realistic as Nan, tottering across the stage, harnessed to the clothesline and urinating on the ground with malevolent glee. Rod Piagonda as Dan is a fascinating mixture of threat and dullard, with a repellent oiliness that leaves one unsure whether or not he is a match for Rita.
Sutton has to play an almost unplayable role as it is virtually impossible to bring Kat to real life. Her dialogue lacks internal logic; one cannot swallow her high-flown imagery along with her infantile behaviour, nor can one believe in the premise of her total isolation. There are similar lapses of credibility throughout. Old Nan’s senility is far too selective, for example, and the play's ambience hovers so uneasily between naturalism and the surreal that one cannot accept either as a believable viewpoint.
Perhaps these lapses stem from the fact that Mainwaring is still under the influence of other voices, other styles: Jack Hibberd's A Stretch of the Imagination, for instance, and Sam Shepard, Samuel Becket and Harold Pinter. The Shepard connection was so obvious that the music of his Paris, Texas is used as a motif throughout the production. And, another giveaway of the tyro: Mainwaring is still unable to resist the temptation of contriving towards clever symmetry. Nevertheless, her instincts are all in place for the ultimate development of her own distinct and memorable voice.
THE BULLETIN, May11, 1993