Rain Man, New Theatre, Cardiff: Review

Set to a backdrop of 80s music, this stage adaptation of the iconic film Rain Man kept me enthralled from start to finish. Filled with poignancy and pathos, moments of tenderness and comedy, the play elicits every emotion from tears to joy.

The inaugural production of the Classic Screen to Stage Company led by Bill Kenwright, the play stays close to the storyline of the film. We follow ambitious, selfish wheeler-dealer Charlie (Ed Speelers) who discovers he has a brother he never knew about – autistic savant Raymond (Mathew Horne) – when his estranged father leaves his 3 million dollar fortune to the institution he lives in.

Charlie ‘kidnaps’ Raymond in an attempt to wheedle half the money out of him. But in the process, Charlie has a change of heart and learns to love his brother.

Mathew Horne as Raymond absolutely steals the stage from the moment he shuffles and rocks his way into the spotlight. His portrayal of a soul who lives by his routines and has a remarkable memory, is remarkable, tender, intelligent and comic. Though we never laugh at Raymond, we laugh at his words, at Horne’s comic timing and at his affect on his cold-hearted brother when he refuses to travel by plane or when he showcases his amazing abilities to memorise the phone book. I could go on and on at how brilliant Horne is, but suffice to say: he is brilliant!

There are some lovely, touching scenes between the brothers – notably when, sat on a hotel bed, Charlie recalls that the mother he can’t remember  ‘smelt nice’ and Raymond unsentimentally explains it was ‘Shalimar’ and when Charlie teaches Raymond to dance. We see Charlie soften towards his brother as he leads him by the hand and tucks him in to the best bed in the hotel room.

The rest of the cast support the performance excellently – amongst them Elizabeth Carter as girlfriend Susan, Neil Roberts as caring Dr Bruener, Adam Lilley as Dr Marston and Mairi Barclay as Iris the Hooker.

The show got a standing ovation from many at Cardiff’s New Theatre last night and before the final curtain, Mathew Horne made a brief but impassioned speech for the charity Mencap (which advised on aspects of the play and where he is an ambassador) asking for donations on the way out. Needless to say, those buckets seemed to fill up nicely as we all left the show feeling uplifted and entranced by the performances of the evening.

Rain Man plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre until Saturday 15th September. For tickets go to www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk

It then tours the UK – for more details click here

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