Rain Man Review – Richmond Theatre

RAIN MAN

Two brothers. One destiny.

A review by Tanya Howard

When self-centered salesman Charlie Babbitt discovers that his long-lost brother Raymond, an autistic savant with a genius for numbers, has inherited the family fortune; he sets out to get ‘his half’. Charlie ‘borrows’ Raymond from the institution where he has spent most of his life and the two brothers embark on a trip across America where Charlie soon discovers that Raymond is worth more than he could have ever imagined…

I had never seen the film Rain Man I didn’t know what to expect from the show but having heard rave reviews about the story and being a fan of Matthew Horne and Ed Speleer as actors I was excited to go in with fresh eyes and see what all the fuss was about. The show opens at Babbitt Collectibles, Charlie Babbitt’s company that is struggling financially and is being chased for loan payments and bought cars.

Ed Speleer in his theatre debut plays Charlie Babbitt who finds out his Dad has passed away which is an inconvenience for him because he will have to go to the funeral despite not getting on with father. A cold man who reported his car stolen when Charlie borrowed it to celebrate his straight A report card and was left in jail for two days before his Dad decided to go and bail him out. Back in his Dad’s house Charlie can only remember his imaginary friend called Rain Man who would sing to him when he was scared.

Finding out his Dad has left him a used car and rose bushes and given his 3 million dollar estate to an unnamed beneficiary who Charlie presses the lawyer for the name of. He finds out that in a local hospital he has a brother called Raymond, played by Horne, who has autism. Charlie decides to sign Raymond out of the hospital and takes him on a road trip in the hopes of using him as leverage to gain half of the inheritance.

Ray’s autism means that he needs routine and structure, but has an incredible mind that allows him to do things like memorise the entire phone book or know how many toothpicks have fallen on the floor. Being out with Charlie makes him unsettled if he strays too far from routine and can cause him to have violent outbursts against himself, which happens when Charlie tries to get Raymond to agree to flying but instead they end up going on a road trip.

When you are on a trip with just one other person, especially in confined places, you learn a lot about them and Charlie had the chance to actually get to know Raymond and learnt that he was put into the hospital after their Mum died because of worry that he would hurt Charlie. He also learns that he didn’t have an imaginary friend but it was Raymond that would sing to him when he was scared, but he was too little to say his name and called him Rain Man. Despite Raymond not being able to show his emotion he teaches Charlie how to show it, when he teaches Ray to dance and when he is finally is able to tell his girlfriend he loves her.

Doctor Brooner puts a restraining order on Charlie to stop him from ever taking Ray away again and offers him £250,000 to walk away but Charlie refuses the money and wants Ray to live with him. Charlie knows that he wasn’t named for the first 6 months because his Dad was checking to see if he was disabled as well because he didn’t want to put his name to that. When the doctor tries to get Ray to agree to where he wants to live and he can’t answer, Charlie realises that the best place for him is the hospital and promises to come and see him on scheduled visits.

Speleer in his theatre debut portrays the character of Charlie superbly, it’s a great feat to be able to take on a character that an audience start out feeling repugnant towards but manage to turn that into a feeling of support and compassion by the end of the show. Horne’s portrayal of autistic Raymond was a work of art, from growing up with an autistic brother, who faces similar challenges to Raymond, Horne was able to bring his own unique take to the character. The commitment to the role, the tiny details that not everyone may notice, the control over his portrayal of disability was incredible to watch.

Horne and Speleer have a great connection on stage and are a really great pairing for the show. The story takes us on a road trip but the show itself takes the audience on a road trip of emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you won’t be surprised when the audience get up to give the actors a standing ovation for their performance, you may even want to join them. I really enjoyed the show and I’m glad I didn’t watch the film beforehand as it meant that I came in with fresh ideas and no biased feelings towards anyone from the film as can be the case. I would definitely encourage you all to go and see Rain Man.

Photo Credit: Robert Day