A stage adaptation often goes one of two ways – it either offers something new and exciting or is a bland translation leaving you feeling as if you’d be better off at home watching the original with popcorn in hand. Unfortunately, Rain Man falls into the latter category.
The heartfelt story focusses on Charlie when his father dies and leaves his fortune to Charlie’s long-lost disabled brother, Raymond, who lives in an institution. When Charlie takes him on a trip in an attempt to take back his half of the money, he realises Raymond is a hidden genius and the pair of them hit Vegas to win big in the casinos. What starts as a trip born from a selfish, cold motive soon evolves into a bonding vacation.
Ed Speleers as Charlie has plenty of swagger and handles the emotional range well, though it’s incredibly difficult to hear most of his dialogue. It’s even harder to hear anything Elizabeth Carter, who plays Susan, has to say. She squeaks her way through her scenes, meaning every conversation she’s part of it a total write-off.
Matthew Horne as Raymond is no Dustin Hoffman. He gets plenty of laughs, but I’m not sure that’s the point. His constant movements are consistent but unnecessary and makes his character laughable rather than truly believable – it’s hard to empathise with Raymond, which has a huge impact on the play’s overall effect.
The cast clearly have great ability, though I don’t think this is honed well by director Jonathan O’Boyle. In an attempt to steer away from copying the film, he’s created a play that misses the mark.
The set is impressive enough, slickly moving from one scene to the next with great use of lighting to create bars and doorways out of the background frames. The sound, however, causes the major issues. It’s hard to hear most of the cast and the irritating buzzing throughout is a distraction from the action.
Overall, the production doesn’t do anything differently – it tells the story in a similar structure to the film, with fairly static action. If it achieves anything, it makes me want to watch the film version.
One major benefit is the show is succinct and short – around 2 hours long, including interval. This means I’m not clock-watching, and the play captures my attention from beginning to end.
See Rain Man at Leeds Grand Theatre until 3rd November 2018.