What's On Somerset Reviews Rain Man

Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise are big shoes to fill. The 1988 film was presented as a comedy-drama road movie and film is suited to this narrative. The stage version should not be compared on the same terms. It is a thing of beauty and allows theatre to play to its most exquisite strengths; intimacy and delicacy, emotion and suspense, petites silences like no other. The cast have made their own shoes and they fit them perfectly.

This bucket-list production is extremely well served by those on stage, yet the marketing of this superb play does not do it justice. The promotional poster could imply Will Ferrell or Chevy Chase on a shallow locker-room-banter jaunt. This is nothing of the sort. Theatre shrinks the physical journey, or rather refines and distils it to a superb taste. We are in it, savouring it, not watching it.

Charlie Babbitt has his own journey and is played adeptly by Chris Fountain. Young, inexperienced and vacuous at the start, by the end of the play Fountain has turned the character 180 degrees into tenderness and maturity. An early rant, bordering on tantrum (one of many) had echoes of Joe Pesci. Fountain brought out the angst of a young and flaky businessman under self-induced pressure and misfortune so well that I am sure the front row wanted to reach out and slap him. His estrangement from his father and subsequent treatment via the Will seemed pretty well deserved. Elizabeth Carter tiptoed beautifully along the axis of infatuation and contempt in the role of Susan, seeing Raymond’s beauty far in advance of her petulant amour.

And so to understudy Adam Lilley, who took the character of Raymond from his insular world of tics and mannerisms to the catalyst for a spontaneous standing ovation at the end. Lilley’s detail was immense, the relentless and intense physical contortions were continuously released via the great dialogue and growing relationship with the other characters. It was warm throughout, a continual reminder that this is a love story punctuated by quips, the latter acting like the crutches in Dali’s Sleep. One wouldn’t work without the other, yet together they are sublime.

Do yourself a favour, it runs until Saturday with matinee options on Wednesday and Saturday. The Playhouse, Weston-super-Mare. Tickets 01934 645544 www.theplayhouse.co.uk


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The Playhouse Theatre, 126-130 High Street, Weston-super-Mare
BS23 1HP