Rain Man returns to the stage

Rain Man returns to the stage in Surrey with a nationwide tour of the play based on the multi-Oscar-winning film running at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, this week, writes Stuart Flitton.

The production, from the Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company, ran at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford last autumn, featuring Matthew Horne as Raymond Babbit.

Chris Fountain in Rain Man

The 2019 tour that began earlier this month was to have featured Paul Nicholls (Joe Wicks in EastEnders) as Raymond, the autistic savant brother that Charlie (played by Chris Fountain in the new line-up) didn’t know he had.

Nicholls had to withdraw due to illness, but Horne, best-known for starring in Gavin and Stacey, agreed to reprise the role he played last year. However, casting has undergone a further change with Horne unable to appear on the Woking stage this week, for unknown reasons. The part has now been filled by Adam Lilley, who has stepped up from other roles in the play.

Fountain (Justin in Hollyoaks and Tommy Duckworth in Coronation Street) is on stage virtually non-stop with a huge number of lines as the fast-talking Charlie, a slick second-hand car salesman whose father dies leaving his fortune to an anonymous beneficiary.

That turns out to be Raymond, the brother Charlie didn’t know he had and who is living in an institution. Charlie “borrows” Raymond and takes him on a road trip across America in an attempt to gain control of the inheritance.

There are diversons of many sorts on the way and Charlie learns more about Raymond and a past he didn’t know they shared. Meanwhile, Raymond is exposed to experiences he has never had, chipping away at the barriers to the outside world that are part of his condition. Charlie is no less affected by the journey and the relationship with his brother.

The play opens with Charlie’s used car office and then quickly establishes the premises in a series of short scenes with minimal set. However, these seemed a little clumsy at the first night and hopefully will improve.

While the first Act seemed to drag at times, the pace, and emotion, sharpened in the second Act where the heart of the story lies.

While Fountain didn’t give Charlie quite the depths that Tom Cruise managed in the film, he gave an energetic performance that at times conveyed the emotional heartbeat of the story leaving a packed auditorium clearly gripped by the drama.

Lilley did a superb job with a role that won Dustin Hoffman a Best Actor Oscar, although the portrayal of an autistic person with physical twists and twitches does jar a little with more recent knowledge and experience of the condition.

The sense that the view is “of its time” is helped by firmly rooting the play in the 1980s, along with lots of brown costume and furniture and instantly recognisable hits of the time.

A standing ovation greeted the curtain call showing that the punch of the story still has the power it had on screen 30 years ago.

Rain Man runs until Saturday 26 January at the New Victoria Theatre (Atgtickets.com/newvictoriatheatre, call 0844 871 7645).

The tour then moves around the country, including Hawth Theatre, Crawley from 11 to 16 February (Parkwoodtheatres.co.uk/thehawth,
01293 553636) and Nuffield Theatre, Southampton from 4 to 9 March (Nstheatres.co.uk, 0238067 1771)

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