‘Little more than a retread of the film’: RAIN MAN – Touring ★★

In Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland, Touring by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

Touring – reviewed at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson

There are probably enough fans of the original movie to sustain The Classic Screen to Stage Company’s touring version of Rain Man. However, as a piece of theatre, it never makes a successful case for itself.

Dan Gordon’s adaptation is largely faithful to the screenplay Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass wrote for the 1988 Barry Levinson film about wheeler-dealer used-car salesman Charlie Babbitt. Charlie only discovers he has a brother called Raymond when their father dies and leaves Raymond his fortune.

The film is largely known, of course, for Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of the savant Raymond. While the movie undoubtedly did a great deal to raise the subject of autism, there are many troubling things about the way the character is depicted. You would certainly hope that, 30 years on, different choices would be made.

So it is disappointing that this production – as the name of Bill Kenwright’s new company suggests – is little more than a retread of the film. One of the biggest problems in adapting what is essentially a road movie for the stage is that the genre is so unsuited to the theatre. Important events happen offstage and are merely referenced; what remains is a series of static episodes that are linked by unnecessarily clunky scene changes. Jonathan O’Boyle’s direction is disappointingly pedestrian; even though this is a relatively short play, it does not exactly fly by.

Matthew Horne’s Raymond, meanwhile, is rooted in another era. Perhaps rights issues preclude a more nuanced revision of the character, but his performance rarely amounts to more than a series of verbal and physical tics.

On a purely technical level, it is an astonishingly sustained feat of acting, but it fails to make much emotional impact, and he is too much a figure of fun too often. Thirty years suddenly seems a very long time in the way neurodiversity is portrayed.

The other performances do not help a great deal. Downtown Abbey’s Ed Speleers, in his stage debut as Charlie, seems out of his depth. He is not helped by this version of the narrative affording little opportunity for the believable redemption of a thoroughly dislikeable individual, but Speleers never seems sure how to pitch the character.

Elizabeth Carter is on even more of a hiding to nothing as Charlie’s girlfriend Susan, a role that is desperately underwritten. That Carter is doing her best is shown by the impact of her scene with Horne in the second half, which provides the one moment of real depth on show. Too often, however, Carter and Speleers are both reduced to shouting as a substitute for emotion.


Adam Lilley and Neil Roberts attempt to provide some much-needed heft as the various authority figures, but the characters are little more than ciphers. Mairi Barclay’s roles are comedy stereotypes but are at least discharged with fun and energy.

That all of this is little more than a 1980s tribute act is reinforced by the hair metal and soft rock that underscore the interminable scene changes at considerable volume. This reinforces the feel of a period piece that has no particularly urgent reason to be revived.

Running time: Two hours and 10 minutes (including one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Monday 1 – Saturday 6 October 2018.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Weds, Sat matinees: 2.30pm.
Tickets: Click here to buy tickets online.

Tour website: www.kenwright.com.

Rain Man on tour:

1 – 6 Oct
Edinburgh 
Kings Theatre
0131 529 6000
Book online

8 – 13 Oct
Cambridge
Arts Theatre
01223 503333
Book online

15 – 20 Oct
Brighton 
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650
Book online

22 – 27 Oct
Guildford 
Yvonne Arnaud
01483 44 00 00
Book online

29 Oct – 3 Nov
Leeds 
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700
Book online

5 – 10 Nov
Richmond 
Richmond Theatre
0844 871 7651
Book online

12 – 17 Nov
Derby 
Derby Theatre
01332 59 3939
Book online

19 – 24 Nov
Northampton
Royal & Derngate
01604 624 811
Book online

Tour continues 2019:

21 – 26 Jan 2019
Woking
New Victoria
0844 871 7645
Book online

11 – 16 March 2019
Salford
Lowry Theatre
08432 086000
Book online

19 – 23 March 2019
High Wycombe
Wycombe Swan
01494 512000
Book online

25 – 30 March 2019
Glasgow
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647
Book online

ENDS

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Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.
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Thom Dibdin on FacebookThom Dibdin on RssThom Dibdin on Twitter
Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. He tweets from @AllEdinTheatre and, personally, from @ThomDibdin.

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