Rain Man is an Oscar-winning film starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, and now Bill Kenwright brings this story to the stage in a fantastic production starring Mathew Horne and Ed Speleers.
Set in the late 1980’s, Rain Man tells the story of Charlie Babbitt, a wheeler-dealer type who is currently importing some expensive cars but has a bit of a cash flow problem. He decides to go away with his girlfriend Susan for the weekend but just as they are both leaving the office they get a call to say his father has died, so they attend his funeral instead. Charlie is very self-centred and feels this has been a wasted weekend as he was never close to his father. It becomes clear why he isn’t close to his dad when he tells Susan a story of when he borrowed his father’s 1949 Buick Roadmaster but his father reported it as stolen and left him in jail for two days. No wonder he has anger issues. He is left the car and some roses in his father’s will, but not the millions he had hoped for. He finds out who the trustee is and goes to visit him and there learns that he has an older brother, Raymond. Raymond has spent most of his life in this institution and is autistic savant, has a remarkable memory and a genius for numbers. Determined to get his hands on the money, Charlie ‘borrows’ Raymond from the institution. As Raymond refuses to fly on a plane they take a road trip across America. Spending time with his brother he realises that Raymond remembers him and why he was sent into the institution. He even remembers that Charlie couldn’t pronounce his name and used to call him Rain Man instead of Raymond.
Mathew Horne plays Raymond, who is most well known for playing Gavin in Gavin and Stacey. He is unrecognisable in this role and gives an absolutely outstanding performance. His performance is worthy of a Bafta. It is truly moving to watch as every nod, mannerism and eye contact has been considered. Mathew IS Raymond. He plays the role with such affection and attention to detail that from the first scene he is in he absolutely nails it. Even when he walks of set for the scene changes he is still in character. Totally exceptional performance.
Ed Speleers plays Charlie. Ed has previously starred in Downton Abbey, and stared in the fantasy film Eragon. Ed plays Charlie in such a way that instead of disliking the loud brashness of Charlie, you can empathise with him for his family situation. It is sad that he never knew he had a brother. Ed brings all his emotions to the performance, as Charlie starts off angry and money-led. Ed subtly leads the changes from arrogance to considerate and caring brother and does so effortlessly. He gives us his all in this role – which is a hard balance to play. A performance of quality.
Ed and Mathew have warmth between them on stage and have some touching scenes such as when Charlie teaches Raymond to dance. They take their time and this scene is not rushed which makes it such a joy to behold. Susan is played by Elizabeth Carter and she plays the role perfectly. Susan is the compassion factor in the piece, challenging Charlie and making him realise it’s not always about him. Elizabeth plays the role with charm and is very affable in the role. I also want to give her hair a mention as its perfect for the period. I am not sure if it is her own hair or a wig but it was great to see big curly hair celebrated and looked amazing on stage.
This is a heart-warming show with an outstanding cast and some moments to treasure. I enjoyed the change of sets where some great 80’s soundtracks were played and also well-chosen to the scenes. For example David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes at the funeral, People Are Strange for when Charlie first meets Raymond… well you get the picture. It’s a nice touch.
This is one not to miss – it has big phones, big hair, big soundtrack and most of all big heart.
Rain Man is currently at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 8 September.