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The Rain God review at Vaults, London – ‘moments of genuine joy’

Ruby Bentall in The Rain God at Vault Festival, London Ruby Bentall in The Rain God at Vault Festival, London
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Charles Hatfield made it rain. Or at least he claimed he could, travelling around the USA in the early 1900s, offering his services as a rainmaker to desperate, drought-hit communities.

He had a sensational streak of success, culminating in his incredible but ill-fated 1915 commission to fill San Diego’s depleted Morena Reservoir. Surely he was a fraud, though? A fake?

The Rain God sets off to find out. Framing Hatfield’s remarkable story within a more personal, relatable tale of childhood in rainy Manchester, writer Jack Monaghan crafts an intelligent, investigatory journey of admirable scope.

Presented by a friendly Ruby Bentall, and scored throughout by musician Robert Moutrey, who plays the drums live, it’s a hugely engaging show – an electric mix of gig-theatre, science lecture and storytelling.

Produced by Pronk! (a new creative partnership involving actor Bentall, Moutrey, Monaghan and director David Aula), this short show is still rough around the edges, but what it lacks in finish, it more than makes up for in flair.

Aula, a director with a penchant for theatrical magic, crafts several moments of genuine joy. A chemistry experiment to form a cloud inside a bell jar. A thunderstorm simulated with flashing strobes and rolling drums. Best of all, the moment Hatfield brings an apocalyptic storm to a parched San Diego: one lonely drop, followed by a torrent of words, light and rich, resonant music. It’s a thrilling symphony of writing and direction that, ironically enough, brings a tear to the eye.

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A symphonic synthesis of gig-theatre, science lecture and storytelling about one man’s remarkable gift