Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Rain Man - Richmond Theatre

Rain Man
Adaptor: Dan Gordon
Director: Robin Herford
Reviewer: Marie Kenny

Transitions from screen to stage don’t always work as well as you would hope. When Dustin Hoffman played Raymond ("Rain Man") Babbitt in the 1988 film, he gave a memorable and iconic performance. He was always going to be a really hard act to follow.

For the national tour, the producers have chosen Neil Morrissey, an actor best known for the long-running sitcom Men Behaving Badly and the voice of Bob the Builder. An interesting choice, brave or foolish I wondered.

Dan Gordon’s adaptation keeps the essence of the film, introducing us first to desperate businessman Charlie Babbit played by Oliver Chris. The play opens with a series of phone calls with clients and suppliers as he tries to avoid financial ruin. In the midst of this, he receives a call informing him that his father has died.
Emotionally he seems unmoved, but sees inheriting his fortune of $12 million as his way out of trouble. Instead, it’s revealed his father left him the car they had fallen out over many years before and some rose bushes.

The $12 million is left to the brother he had forgotten he had, his autistic brother Raymond who was placed in care when Charlie was a toddler. Motivated by his desire to receive half the money, Charlie virtually kidnaps Raymond from his doctors care and there follows a trip across the US. There begins their journey, the biggest one being the change in Charlie. As he gets to know his brother he warms to his ways, sheds his selfishness and by the end genuinely cares for the welfare of his brother.

Morrissey gives a touching performance as Raymond, establishing himself as an excellent character actor. I can’t think of the last time I went to the theatre and was truly moved by a performance. Watching Charlie teach his brother to dance, is a reminder to us all to appreciate the simple things.

Inevitably there are frequent changes of scene but thankfully Jonathan Fensom's design keeps them simple and quick. The dramatic tension is maintained with a minimum of fuss. Contrary to my expectation this play works very, very well.

Photos: Alastair Muir
Runs until Sat 31st Oct
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