Our review of Rain Man at the Royal and Derngate in Northampton

Matthew Horne and Ed Speleers. Picture: Robert Day
Matthew Horne and Ed Speleers. Picture: Robert Day

Rain Man is one of those movies that is so iconic you can’t believe any re-make could be as good as the original.

After all, no one could possibly top Dustin Hoffman’s academy award-winning performance as severely autistic savant Raymond. And what actor would be brave enough to try?

Gavin from Gavin and Stacey, actually. That’s right. Comedy actor Matthew Horne is the last person I expected to see playing Rain Man in the stage version of the film on at the Derngate Theatre this week.

Fortunately for Horne, he pulled it off brilliantly and presents a beautiful portrayal of Raymond with perfect comic timing and authenticity.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, it’s the story of two brothers who are reunited when their father dies. Older brother, Raymond, an autistic man with incredible memory and mental calculation skills, is liberated/kidnapped from the institution where he has lived since he was a boy by his emotionally inept, car dealer brother, Charlie.

Taking on the role of Charlie (originally played by Tom Cruise) must have also been a daunting task but actor Ed Speleers appeared to have no problem with it. In fact, I preferred his version of the character to Cruise’s. He was totally flawless and effortlessly charismatic. The entire audience were gripped by his performance throughout, and you felt like you were on this emotional journey with him. There were tears all round when Charlie finally learns how to love from the one person who (according to his doctor) is unable to show affection.

The chemistry between Horne and Speleers is convincing and sweet and it is testament to their performance that when the play reached its moving conclusion, there was a huge standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house.

You don’t need to have seen the 1988 film to enjoy this show. This funny, entertaining play, with fantastic eighties soundtrack, is brilliant in it’s own right.

* Rain Man is on at the Royal and Derngate in Northampton until Saturday November 24. Visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk for tickets.