Review: Rain Man at Theatre Royal Windsor
The 80s called, they want their film back. Well they can't have it. Rain Man has arrived back in Windsor and it's funny, moving and as familiar as lace fingerless gloves.
The 1988 Oscar-winning movie, Rain Man was on the TV over the Easter break. It barely needs any introduction, you know its stars Tom Cruise mark 1 – before he bought his Hollywood smile and snout – and Dustin Hoffman, a man who seems to have been middle aged his entire life. So it’s a brave move to try and replicate the film’s story and success on stage. So much expectation, so many opportunities to disappoint.
Step up, Dan Gordon, the man responsible for the stage adaption of Barry Morrow’s screenplay that kicked off at the Theatre Royal Windsor in September 2018 and, after a hit UK tour, is back for the last leg. What can you expect? It’s less a theatrical reinterpretation and more a CliffsNotes condensed version of the film. That said, it packs a punch.
Raymond (played by Adam Lilley), an autistic man with incredible memory and mental calculation skills, is ‘borrowed’ from a mental institution by his potty-mouthed ‘show me the money’ brother Charlie (Chris Fountain), who discovers that his estranged sibling has just inherited their father’s $3million estate. During their road trip, hustler Charlie learns how to make money using Raymond’s talents and eventually how to love from the one person who stereotypically won’t be able to show him affection.
Chris Fountain (a soap dish who’s starred in Hollyoaks, Corrie, Emmerdale and Casualty) is superb. He attacks the role of Charlie, who lives life so close to the edge he’s about to crash and burn, with energy and swagger. Charlie is the sort of guy you’d see in a bar and despise for all his over confidence and ‘player’ qualities. But, at the end of the night (and a few Porn Star Martinis), you’d be ripping his clothes off.
Lucky Elizabeth Carter, who plays is girlfriend Susan, does just that in a sex scene that would make Meg Ryan blush. It didn’t go down particularly well with some of the older members of the audience, who were pursing their lips like maiden aunts and reaching for the smelling salts. Me? Quite frankly I would’ve been more than happy to see a bit more flesh. The good news for sensitive Berkshire residents, Raymond’s entrance into the room making the sounds of a wounded animal, cut through the any lingering awkwardness.
Attitudes to autism have changed significantly since the 80s, but the depiction of Raymond has not. Lilley does a superb job bringing individuality to the role while peppering his performance with the famous physical attributes of the character – the crab-like shuffle, tics and self-harming slaps. Lilley commands our attention.
It’s worth noting that the chemistry between Fountain and Lilley is rock solid, each making the role their own without trying to be Cruise and Hoffman. There are some wonderfully comic moments, but it is the more tender scenes that are truly captivating. You could hear a pin drop in the theatre when the brothers discover they have shared memories of their childhood and during the sweetly intimate dance lesson.
To be honest, the entire cast put in great performances, but Susan (Elizabeth Carter)and Dr Breuner (Dominic Taylor) were faultless cutting through the crazy to bring a sense of balance and humanity to the storyline.
The 80s called, and they want their audience back. So if you’re into Don Johnson oversized suits, sports cars and a soundtrack that’s a bit warm and fuzzy to the, *ahem* 40+, go and see Rain Man. It’s a powerful production, that’s as familiar as lace fingerless gloves, and the full house at the Theatre Royal were in raptures.
Rain Man is on at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Sat 4 May.