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Mathew Horne as Raymond and Ed Speleers as Charlie have most definitely not been counting cards

Rain man

Derby Theatre


When you think about iconic films of the 80s, Rain Man is definitely up there with some of the most memorable.

Based on the 1988 Oscar-winning film, made famous for its performances by Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, Dan Gordon’s stage adaptation  follows the relationship between brothers Raymond (Mathew Horne) and Charlie (Ed Speelers).

Charlie Babbit, a car salesman, is heading out for a weekend trip with his co-worker and girlfriend, Susanna (Elizabeth Carter) when he receives a phone call telling him that his estranged father has died.

At the funeral he learns that his father has left him a 1949 Buick Roadmaster and some rose bushes - and that the rest of the $3 million estate has been left to an unnamed trustee.

The trustee proves to be the director of the Walbrook Institute, a facility for the care of the developmentally disabled, and the money is to pay for the care of Raymond, an elder brother Charlie never knew he had.

Motivated by his father's money, Charlie checks Raymond out of the facility in order to return with him to Los Angeles and the pair embark upon a cross-country road trip from Cincinnati to Las Vegas in their late father’s vintage car that ends up changing both their lives.

The classic screen to stage theatre company have previously adapted other notable blockbuster movies including The Shawshank redemption and A Few Good Men which should hold them in good stead. However, for a story that centres around a road trip, the lack of a car within which the relationship between the brothers is built does mean that some of the magic is lost in its transition from cinema to theatre.

The set is simple with roll on roll off furniture to transport us to the different locations, operated by the cast with ease and taking the audience between seedy motel rooms to the bright lights of a casino.

rain derby

Charlie (Speleers) unavoidably provokes Raymond (Horne) to repeat the Who's on first base scene, as Susan (Elizabeth Carter) and Dr Bruener (Neil Roberts ) watch on. 

Charlie Babbit is a selfish self-centred creature who appears to care only about cars and money, delivered with ease by Speelers who brings pace and passion to the role.

Mathew Horne’s take on the autistic character of Raymond is less natural and at points there is a tendency for some of the characterisation of the disability to be over exaggerated, initially comedic Horne soon relaxed into a solid performance. As the brothers grow together we see a softer warmer side to Charlie and the final scene between them is touching and tender.

There is great support from Mairi Barclay playing three cameo roles and notably bringing the famous “246 tooth picks” scene to life with ease. Neil Roberts as Dr Bruener and Adam Lilley doubling up as Mr Mooney and Dr Marston provide all the right ingredients to help the brothers on their journey.

Lighting is fast and effective helping to transport us to the different locations and sometimes even taking us to the depths of Raymond’s mind. Apart from At last and The way you look tonight in the wonderfully crafted “teaching Raymond to dance” scenes we have an 80's rock soundtrack reminding us constantly what period we are in. With big hair and terrible shirts we are without doubt firmly in the 80s.

In 1988 autism was looked on through very different eyes to how it is in 2018. There would be far better understanding of Raymond in today’s world and perhaps Charlie’s character would have had more time and patience for his brother. The theatrical world has also taken giant steps and as an audience we are now much more accepting of such topics, with productions such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time allowing the audience an opportunity to dive right into the mind of autism. 

That said Rain man is not just about autism it is a journey about relationships, about brothers becoming brothers and towards the end of the play this company really make you understand the true meaning of that. Fans expecting the film on stage may be disappointed but for those who have never seen Rain Man this is a heart-warming emotional trip well worth taking. To 17-11-18.

Dexter Whitehead


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