Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Rainman - Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield

Rainman by Barry Morrow
Adapted by: Dan Gordon
Director: Robin Herford

Reviewer: John Roberts

Although being billed as direct from the West End, there are some significant changes that have been made to this touring production of Rainman. First of all we have no Hollywood A Lister heading up the cast, we have a smaller more scaled down set and at the helm is a new director. So all in all this production should be sold as a “New Production” for where the lavish West End production fell down, this production rises from the ashes as glorious as a Phoenix.

Based on the film of the same name, which was inspired by the true story of Kim Peek, adapter Dan Gordon has stayed faithful to its cinematic predecessor starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, yet still having the artistic licence to transfer the story to 2009, making it feel even more timely in the themes that it explores.

Charlie Babbitt an exclusive car salesman finds out on the same day his business is about to go bust, that his estranged father has died, leaving him a car and his prize winning rose bushes, but leaving a $12,000,000 fortune to an unnamed beneficiary.

This person unknown at the time is Raymond, the autistic older brother of Charlie, who had been institutionalised for over twenty years. What follows is a story of forgotten brotherhood, and self realisation where and I quote Kim Peek ‘That recognising and respecting differences in others, and treating everyone like you want them to treat you, will help make our world a better place for everyone. You don’t have to be handicapped to be different. Everyone is different.’

Director Robin Herford has approached the play with a sympathetic subtlety that not only keeps the narrative feeling fresh, but also helps bring out the best from his cast throughout the 2 hours. Although one pick would be why he would give the thumbs up to Jason Taylors lighting design that at times was so dark you could barely see the action taking place on stage.

The set designed by Jonathan Fenson gives us a stylised set of moving orange and green walls that change position by flying in and out of the stage to suggest new locations. Although some of the moving furniture has been trimmed a little from its West End counterpart, it is never the less still highly effective and only helps but serve Herford’s smooth running production.

Oliver Chris gives a ferociously angsty performance, as Charlie and the change throughout to his characters journey is not only heartfelt but a truly truthful performance. The biggest surprise is Neil Morrissey as Raymond and although a slight overplaying during the first part of act one he soon settles and gives a sublime, touchingly funny and often brutal portrayal of a man having to cope with the world outside of the comfortable constraints of his daily routine of 4:30pm Judge Judy and Green Jello deserts at 7pm. Excellent support is given by Charles Lawson as Dr Breyner and Ruth Everett gives an enticing performance as Susan.

If you are looking for a show that will not only make you laugh out loud, possibly cry but really make you sit up and question yourself about how we treat and respect those around us then this is the production for you. Grab your ticket now as Rainman is what excellent theatre is all about.

Rainman runs at the Lyceum until 12th Sept before more national dates – click here for more info
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