**** 4 Stars
The Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company, an off shoot of Bill Kenwright productions has revived Dan Gordon’s adaptation of the 1998 MGM motion picture “Rain Man” which was last seen in the UK in 2009.
Telling the story of Charlie Babbitt (Played with dive and verve by Ed Speleers) a sports car business magnetic living on the tight rope in 1988 Los Angeles who is confronted by the death of his father a man who never knew how to express love. Charlie can put aside the death easily but not the 3 million dollars in inheritance that’s gone to a specialist care home. On investigating Charlie discovers the secret brother Raymond (Mathew Horne who gives an unforgettable and perhaps career changing performance) an Autistic Savant whose mind is akin to a human google but can’t express or understand the simplest of human emotions. To get his half of the money Charlie takes Raymond from the place he has known as home and moulds itself to his strict routines. Raymond’s refusal to fly leads to a road trip across America that leads to an exploration of not just disability and how its perceived but also two brothers who share one destiny.
In the 30 years since the film was released (baring in mind Raymond is based on the late but very real Kim Peek) much has changed in how society views, understands and most importantly accepts mental disability. It’s a telling snapshot of past time that this play remains set in 1988 with an 80’s pop sound track scattered throughout. It’s this transient journey that grips the audience and director Jonathan O’Boyle delivers moments of comedy (never truly at the expense of Raymond but does challenge the audience to think where the humour is coming from) along side those moments of pure dramatic pathos that’s wonderfully moving to watch.
The lead performers are faultless especially Horne who brings a highly physical performance style, he never stops gently rocking or bringing ticks of movement when lying in bed that sets his Raymond apart from Dustin Hoffman (original movie) and Neil Morrisey (the 2008/09 UK Tour) and for that he must be applauded. The performance is so secure it’s a little shocking to see Matthew break character for the bows truly a tremendous achievement. Speleers also delivers a performance full of hurt, anger and ultimately loving tenderness especially in the closing moments of the play, it’s a scene that truly touches the heart. Horne and Speleers are joined by a 6 strong ensemble who all deliver well on stage always supporting the unfolding story and never detracting from it.
Set Design by Morgan Large is functional and keeps things moving but achieving a road movie on stage is difficult and working with director O’Boyle that have delivered the heart of the story but iconic moments like the classic car do not feature. Jack Weir’s lighting is at times far to bright to the point of over lit but comes into its own in the tender moments and mixing Dan Samson’s sound design ensures a suitable 80’s vibe fills the theatre.
Rain Man remains very much of its time but does make a potent and moving piece of theatre that continues the mental health and disability debate long after the curtain has fallen. With Stellar lead performances and a beautiful story, ensures this classic screen to stage adaptation once again shines.
Rain Man, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until Saturday 6th October For Tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/rainman
Rain Man will also visit Glasgow Theatre Royal, 25th – 30th March 2019