Sunday, 2 September 2018

REVIEW: Rain Man at the Windsor Theatre Royal

Bill Kenwright is a prolific producer and his latest production under the "Classic screen to stage" banner is the 1988 four times Oscar winning film Rain Man which starred Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise . It is a "road movie" in which two brothers discover themselves during a drive from Cincinnati to Las Vegas in their late father's 1949 Buick Roadmaster vintage car. It is quite ambitious to translate the story to the stage for a UK tour but writer Dan Gordon does a very good job.

The show opened at Windsor Theatre Royal with Mathew Horne in the Dustin Hoffman role of the autistic elder brother Raymond. It is a remarkable physical and emotional performance that dominates the stage from his first entrance and when ever he is on. He fully deserves the standing ovation at the end. Raymond's disabilities have meant he has been in a care home for much of his life but his brother discovers he has some remarkable abilities which make him endearing, funny and useful to Charlie. He can memorise a phone book and read two books at same time , one with each eye! He has great fun with an old Abbott and Costello routine, now often seen in pantomime, about "who is on first base and what's now on second base" which he resorts to under stress. 

Ed Speleers makes his stage debut as Charlie. We meet him in an overlong confusing opening scene where his wheeler dealer trade in imported Cadillacs worth $300,000 is caught up in the paperwork of the US Environmental Protection Agency. It portrays him as a self centred money seeking young man without care for others. But during his road trip with his brother , he discovers his family history and the truth of the Rain Man memories and learns to love others. 

In particular the two are excellent together in the very gentle touching scenes where Charlie teaches Raymond to dance in a Las Vegas hotel room and then later sit quietly side by side reflecting on their future relationship in a meeting room. These scenes are pivotal, moving and are wonderfully and tenderly played.

They get good support from Elizabeth Carter as Charlie's girlfriend/employee Susan and Neil Roberts as the care Home manager Dr Bruener both of whom show caring affection for Raymond and are suspicious of Charlie's motivation, fearing he is just using him.

The set design by Morgan Large is very effective, avoiding the temptation for
realistic box sets or excessive back projections and uses simple door frames and illuminated signs to set the scenes with the cast changing the practical furniture required for each scene. With a UK tour ahead and the multi location story line it is an elegant solution. However on two occasions the cast costume changes lead to extended gaps between scenes with a bare stage which needs filling . They avoid the obvious devise of bringing a Bruick on stage so we never actually see the road trip at all, just the stops along the way. Lighting Director Jack Weir also adds to the staging with some good effects and tightly defined spots.

Director Jonathan O'Boyle keeps the show tight to a two hour running time and brings the characters to life in a believable and engaging way. There is the additional joy of a nineteen eighties soundtrack to the story. 

This is a very good production with excellent central performances and well worth seeing on tour during September to the end of November in twelve venues. Whether you know the original film or not, you won't fail to be moved by the way the two brothers relationship develops or impressed by Horne's remarkable performance.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat : Rear Stalls | Price of ticket : £27
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