Mathew Horne’s performance is undoubtedly brilliant as Raymond, however he cannot save the slow drag of the show’s production, pacing, and narrative.
This adaptation of the 80s movie of the same name seems awkward and out of place. As we now have a better understanding of disabled or atypical people, the outdated humour tastes bitter and I found myself shifting uncomfortably in my seat as others chuckled along. The majority of the punchlines come from Raymond’s misunderstandings of social cues and his older brother Charlie (Ed Speelers) getting increasingly exasperated with him. When Charlie is not getting annoyed with Raymond, he is trailing him along to cheat their way into money or asking him to repeat the TV schedule verbatim, with vague references to family dilemmas peppered throughout for some sudden and unearned fraternal bonding moments. As a story, it feels tired and old-fashioned, with long periods of meandering punctuated with cliché emotional reveals that rush what could be a genuinely sweet evolving relationship.
Road-trip movies are notoriously difficult to translate onto stage, and it shows here. The scene transitions are slow, despite the upbeat soundtrack that plays during black-outs, and the scenes themselves feel too long; it seems that there is not enough material to warrant a two-hour show. There is a distinct lack of dynamism or tension in the scenes until the very end, and Speelers’ performance of Charlie is not charming enough to carry the momentum between these long flat stretches. His performance is mainly comprised of half-hearted swearing and schmoozing that becomes irritating to watch, and he lacks chemistry with anyone else on stage.
For a stage production, ‘Rain Man’ is unfortunately lacklustre and unmoving, with clunky dialogue and flimsy characters. Having heard from those who have seen the film (I have not seen it myself) and praise it for its nuance and emotional moments, I am concerned that it relied too heavily on the nostalgia factor of its title to draw in audiences, rather than reproducing the thought-provoking story that so many originally herald it for. Best to probably stick to watching re-runs of the movie on TV.