The Rain God, VAULT Festival

by guest critic Joanna Trainor

Charles Mallory Hatfield made it rain – and rain and rain and rain.

This is the little-known story* of a man who went from selling sewing machines to controlling the heavens, told through the eyes of a little boy in Manchester. Hatfield would travel to drought-ridden cities with his secret mixture of chemicals and, most of the time, the weather turned.

Although this might sound a little contradictory for a show with a scientific focus, including a very enjoyable “make a cloud in a bell jar” experiment, Ruby Bentall makes storms sound like magic. Bentall plays Jack, which is presumably the writer Jack Monaghan when he was a boy, and in his eyes the weather is this wondrous, all powerful being. It is in control of velux windows, floods, people’s reputations and livelihoods and, like Jack, we’re left in awe of it.

Robert Moutrey’s soundscape is the heart of The Rain God. His drum kit and keyboard makes the rain beats against the walls of the VAULT and the sheer noise of it as Hatfield opens the sky on San Diego commands the room. The only issue is that it can be louder than Bentall at times, and she’s mic’d up.

There is, however quite a lot of jumping between different staging areas that goes on too long. Bentall has a bit of a run around to explain the relationships between characters and it just isn’t necessary. Everything in this piece is well thought through, and this becomes movement for the sake of movement.

But for the most part, this is a beautiful story of the relationship between a child and the story of a Rain God. Science has never been so sweet.

*At least he was definitely unknown to me.

The Rain God runs through 25 February.

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