Reviews Edinburgh Published 3 August 2012

Why Do You Stand There in the Rain?

C ⋄ 2nd - 11th August 2012

A musical documentary.

Rosanna Hall

Scottish playwright Peter Arnott’s new play, Why Do You Stand There in the Rain? – presented at the Fringe by the students of Pepperdine University, Miami, where Arnott has been in residence – is a passionate and thought-provoking piece which recounts the march of the Bonus Army. In 1932 43,000 war veterans from across the United States travelled to the Washington DC to fight for the bonuses promised to them for their service. There they staged a protest not unlike today’s Occupy movement: the men, women and children camped out for almost three months to campaign for their bonuses before being driven out of the city, empty handed and empty stomached.

Presented in a musical documentary style, the production depicts events in an engaging manner, utilising music of the era to accompany a collage of quotes from the press, the statements of the government officials and the diary entries of the veterans themselves, as well as more recent quotes from people like the late Gore Vidal. The individual stories are skilfully woven together without overt sentimentality, the production makes use of both new musical arrangements and bluesy takes on Woody Guthrie’s folk melodies, composed by John Kielty, and the young cast are engaging and energetic. 

In fact the energy and passion of the cast as they explored this episode from their country’s history, was one of the most impressive things about this production. They made the story their own while nodding cheekily towards similarities within their own lifetime. Without being didactic, the production makes parallels between 1932 and the modern day, world and even the powerful Steinbeck-esque closing image of men cowering under tarpaulin begs the question of how much has really changed since 1932.

Smaller productions such as this, especially those with a relatively short run at the beginning of the festival, are always in danger of being swamped by the sheer volume of everything else available, but despite playing to an audience of only three, the cast’s commitment was clear and they created a compelling and intimate piece of storytelling, one which sheds new light on an often forgotten piece of American  history.


Rosanna Hall is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Why Do You Stand There in the Rain? Show Info

Produced by Pepperdine University

Written by Peter Arnott


Running Time 1 hr 30 mins (no interval)



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