The Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company have adapted the justly famous Hollywood film Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, for the stage. It’s currently touring Britain before hopefully transferring to the West End. It’s on all this week at the Richmond Theatre and is a terrific production from a very high quality team of cast, crew and creatives. Dan Gordon has rewritten the film script for the stage. Director Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction is crisp, clear and fast paced. There are no unnecessary scenes, just two hours of compelling entertainment full of tears and laughter, comedy and pathos.
The drama contrasts the lives of two brothers. Charlie (Ed Speleers, fantastic) is a cocky, insensitive wheeler dealer. He sells classic cars. In the opening scene we see him dodging his creditors and playing for time as he hides behind his girlfriend and secretary Susan (Elizabeth Carter, excellent). Charlie is brash, swears for fun and is in a hurry to get rich. He’ll use anyone to get what he wants. Susan takes a call, she informs Charlie that his father has just died. Charlie shows no emotion. His only concern is that the funeral will spoil his weekend away with her in Palm Springs. After the funeral the family lawyer, Mr Mooney (Adam Lilley) reads the will to Charlie. He has been left a car and a rose bush. The rest of the estate – three million dollars – has been entrusted to Dr Bruener at Walmer Hospital. Charlie’s father, Charlie Stanford Babbit Senior has done this because Charlie junior took his Buick for a drive aged 16 against his father’s wishes. Charlie, determined to get his inheritance goes to see Dr Bruener. There he discovers that he has a brother – Raymond Babbit (Mathew Horn, superb), who has been in the hospital from the age of 9. Raymond has a mental impairment and Charlie dismisses him as “retarded”. He is angry that his father has left three million dollars to someone who has no concept of money.
Charlie kidnaps Raymond and plans to fly to Los Angeles with him, he will give Raymond back, in return for his share of the money or he will fight for custody in the LA courts. We watch him as his pride and prejudice dissolve as he comes to terms with the humanity of his “retarded” brother. Charlie has to learn that other people are as real as himself. Mathew Horn brilliantly captures every aspect of Raymond’s condition. He rocks back and forth, holds his left arm by his chest limp wristed, repeats phrases; “this is not a scheduled visit … “insists on his routine”… “maple syrup should be on the table before the pancakes” and smacks himself on the head when upset. Charlie has booked two tickets for a flight to LA. Raymond knows all the details of the airline and its crash history. Every time Charlie suggests an airline, Raymond gives the crash history chapter and verse. Eventually Charlie agrees to drive to LA. In the hotel in LA they are joined by Susan. There is a great comic scene when Charlie and Susan are making love and Raymond overhears them, enters their room and mimics Susan’s love making moans. Charlie throws a telephone book at Raymond and tells him to go away and read it so that he can get back to Susan.
The next morning at breakfast a waitress, wearing a name badge offers to take their order. Raymond gives her full name, address and phone number. Freaked out the waitress runs away. Charlie asks how he knows that. Raymond says because he has memorised the phone book. At this point Susan informs Charlie that his business has gone under and that he is $80,000 dollars in debt. Charlie discovers that Raymond can count cards. He decides to take Raymond to Las Vegas to make some money. The brothers bond in Vegas. Raymond starts talking like Charlie; “you bet your arse”, “shitloads of money” and Charlie begins to really see his brother for his worth. Raymond is chatted up by Iris, the hooker in the bar. Of course Raymond wants to go on a date. There follows a scene of exquisite tenderness as Charlie teaches Raymond how to dance and Susan shows him how to kiss. Asked how the kiss felt he replies “wet”. The finale at the hospital involves a tug of love between Charlie and Dr Bruener for custody of Raymond with Dr Marston (Adam Lilley) in the role of King Solomon.
Without wanting to give too much away suffice it to say that it brought tears to my eyes.
This is a wonderful play.
Review by John O’Brien