Based on one of the most critically acclaimed films of the last 30 years, Rain Man tells the story of car dealer Charlie Babbitt, who discovers he has an autistic brother with amazing abilities – and his three-million-dollar inheritance!
This stage interpretation of the classic film stars Hollyoaks actor Chris Fountain as Charlie, the obnoxious and entitled businessman, while Adam Lilley takes on the role of the Rain Man, Raymond. This follows the departure of Paul Nicholls from the tour, due to illness.
Played with fantastic accuracy, Lilley’s tics, mannerisms and constant nervous movement were hugely impressive, making him the true stand-out performance. Within seconds he conveyed a childlike vulnerability that the audience couldn’t help but support.
Juxtaposed with the loathsome Charlie, the pair embark on a journey across America, as Charlie learns more about his past and starts to soften, eventually valuing his new found brother, more than the money he holds the key to.
Although the film Rain Man did wonders for Autism, raising worldwide awareness of the condition in the late 1980s, watching the performance in 2019 did make me feel somewhat uncomfortable.
The way in which Raymond was treated and spoken to by Charlie was difficult to watch. Although the performance was sprinkled with humour, I was very aware the audience was essentially laughing at the misunderstandings of someone with a developmental disability – It’s the same feeling I get when tuning into The Undateables.
But despite the sensitive content, the talented cast of actors in Rain Man portrayed their roles with a passion which couldn’t be flawed. In particular Dominic Taylor as Dr Bruener had a fabulous caring likability, putting no doubt in the audience’s mind that he had Raymond’s best interests at heart; while Elizabeth Carter’s Susan was a confident and gutsy character who added some heart to the more uncomfortable scenes.
While this performance was an accurate representation of the famous movie’s main plot points, the audience was kept from seeing any dialogue or bonding between Raymond and Charlie from within the film’s iconic Buick Roadmaster, which felt like a huge oversight.
Other than a touching moment where the pair dance together in Las Vegas, Charlie’s transformation from the ignorant and short-tempered businessman to caring little brother seemed unexpected, and the show didn’t allow enough time for a real relationship to develop in the way it suggested by the finale.
The abrupt ending, although similar to the movie, left the audience wondering if the play had in fact finished, or if the set were about to change again. Stilted applause only gained momentum as the lead actors’ broke character for their curtain call.
Having been brought to the stage by Bill Kenwright, the playwright who famously created stage productions of The Shawshank Redemption and A Few Good Men, fans of Rain Man the movie will love this poignant portrayal of the acclaimed film on the stage.
By Melissa Hamblett
Wednesday 24 April 2019
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