Rain Man

November 10, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★★☆

King’s Theatre: Tue 10 – Sat 14 Nov 2009
Review by Thom Dibdin

Deliberately poignant, without tipping the scales into mawkishness, this touring production of Rain Man gives the original 1988 Oscar-winning Hollywood blockbuster a comfortable home on the live stage.

This is down to a pair of purposeful, well-stated and thoroughly believable performances from Neil Morrissey and Oliver Chris, with an equally well-judged supporting performance from Ruth Everett.

The central character of Raymond Babbitt, an autistic savant who has been institutionalised since his childhood, is a peach of a part as Dustin Hoffman showed in the original. But it is all too easy to forget that the caricature demands a big actor to give it real depth.

It is to Neil Morrissey’s great credit that the Men Behaving Badly star succeeds in the role. Too often television comedy actors look for – and get – inappropriate laughs just for walking on stage.

Morrissey stops any such tittering with a highly physical but not over-the-top performance.

He does use his comic timing to great effect when needed. For the most part, however, he simply creates an understandable and utterly humane character whose obsessive control of the minutia of his existence is balanced by his lack of control over the big decisions.

Wanting to take over those decisions for him is Oliver Chris – of Green Wing and The Office fame – as Ray’s brother Charlie, who didn’t even know that he had an elder brother until their estranged father died and left him only a car and some roses from his $12 million will.

Chris creates as vile a character as Ray is likeable. A lying chancer of a car salesman, with the loyal Susan (Everett) tagging along, he instinctively plucks Ray from the safety of his institutional home, to use him as a bargaining chip to get hold of what he believes is his rightful inheritance.

This is very much Charlie’s journey to find his own humanity. It is a journey that occasionally skips rather too conveniently to a significant moment. Fortunately, Chris invests the character with enough chancer’s charm to help the plot lightly over its more sketchy elements.

Still, the production slides neatly from one transient public space to the next – the design is minimal but also highly effective under some bold, simple lighting – which allows the focus to move between the brothers.

It is in this neatly effective storytelling that the play makes its biggest mark. It opens the original up with a sharp, contemporary edge that finds an understanding for all those concerned with Ray’s life, whether his well-meaning doctor (Charles Lawson), the unseen dead father, money grasping brother or even his sensitive girlfriend.

And in so doing, it seems to have a duel set of questions to ask.

Firstly about the lives we give to those who are different, but secondly and more intriguingly, what they can do to enrich our lives.

Run ends Saturday

Run continues to Saturday 14 November
Box Office: 0131 529 6000

ENDS

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