REVIEW: Gavin & Stacey's Mathew Horne and Downton Abbey's Ed Speleers shine in touching tale of brotherhood in Rain Man
PUBLISHED: 10:01 09 October 2018
Delivering a convincing and compelling performance as Raymond Babbit - who has autism - Mathew Horne is miles away from the outright humour of sitcom favourite Gavin Shipman in this stage production of 'Rain Man'.
Contrastingly the 40-year-old, who took inspiration from his own autistic brother and is an ambassador for Mencap, delivers a touching, well-researched portrayal – showcasing his acting talent and versatility.
While this stage version, by The Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company, is purposefully intense at times – thanks to Jonathan O’Boyle’s unnerving direction - there are plenty of funny moments, too; humour with a darker touch and a poignant message at its heart, essentially…
Influenced by people’s fascination with those who are a little different, ‘Rain Man’ - based on the award-winning 1988 film which starred Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in the lead role - is a throwback to decades past.
In between scenes, the soundtrack is full of recognisable American hits including Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, while the set changes are seamless and the design minimal yet effective, thanks to designer Morgan Large who conveys the retro feel of the 80s brilliantly.
From the car dealership, with phones constantly ringing and manager Charlie Babbit (‘Downton Abbey’s Ed Speleers delivers an equally brilliant performance, his outlook on life slowly changing as he discovers he has a brother) stressed by impending loan payment dates and a lack of sales, to the American diner in the airport - the simple touches make a lot of difference, stylistically.
While Charlie is cut out of a three million dollar inheritance after falling out with his father as a teenager, Raymond is blissfully unaware of the inconceivable sum that could be coming his way. Unwilling to lose his share without a fight, Charlie decides to take his brother on a road trip to Las Vegas with the aim of “splitting it 50/50”...
As the unlikely pair use Raymond’s talents to their advantage at the casino - neon lights form the clever backdrop - and Charlie teaches him how to dance, it’s a delight to watch their relationship as brothers develop.
Watching Charlie’s transformation (Ed Speleers conveys multiple sides to the character with ease) from an at-first-vindictive, money-hungry man with a heart of stone into someone who loves his brother and genuinely wants to care and support the last remaining member of his family, it’s impossible not to feel fully invested in the emotional outpourings that unfold on stage - especially in the much tougher second half.
It’s touching to watch their bond grow and, by the end, we’re left with tears in our eyes before the entire audience stands and applause - demonstrating just how affecting a production this is.
Rain Man is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday (October 13) for a range of 2.30pm and 7.45pm performances.
For tickets visit www.cambridgeartstheatre.com/whats-on/rain-man