05:09PM, Thursday 21 March 2019
Seeing a play adaptation of a much-loved film is a risky business. A pared-down on-stage version of Star Wars, for example, would be rubbish.
Luckily Bill Kenwright’s version of Rain Man is not. It’s excellent.
Based on the Oscar-winning film, the story centres around self-centred salesman in trouble Charlie Babbitt, who discovers that his long-lost brother Raymond, an autistic savant with a genius for numbers, has inherited the family fortune.
Intent on getting ‘his half’, Charlie ‘borrows’ Raymond from the institution where he has spent most of his life and takes him on a trip across America where Charlie soon discovers that Raymond can ‘save his ass’ in more ways than he could have ever imagined.
Chris Fountain (Hollyoaks) takes on the Charlie Babbitt role made famous by Tom Cruise with aplomb – he is bullish, impatient, manipulative, sweary – not that nice really - but in the end his emotional awakening – his humanising - is heart-warming. If I were to have one criticism it would be I found the performance a bit too aggressive – maybe a toned-down version would have made easier watching for me.
Paul Nicholls was billed to play Raymond, but due to illness his role has been taken by Adam Lilley, who it must be said is remarkable. Deadpanned lines and stiff body language animated by tics and jerks made for compelling, if uncomfortable, watching.
But the warmth and humour shines through in so many ways – in Raymond’s recollections of Charlie’s babyhood, the brothers’ memories of their mother and Ray’s brilliant out of context repetitions – ‘What were you doing?’ ‘Counting cards...’
The empathy comes in Ray’s attempts to make a connection with Charlie and vice versa, the show-stealer being when Charlie teaches Ray to dance.
Hats off to both actors for remembering a huge amount of lines.
Supporting roles were strong, especially Elizabeth’s Carters Susan, Charlie’s long-suffering girlfriend, and Dominic Taylor as Dr Bruener, Raymond’s psychiatrist.
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