Archive for the Theatre Category

Men Behaving Autistically

Posted in Theatre with tags , on October 26, 2009 by Tim Lee

It’s all different now… they’ve moved on. They use proper actors, you know, Americans, and people off the telly, and they’re all based on films, so it’s fine.

Jeremy from Peep Show on theatre

[Theatre] Rain Man, Norwich Theatre Royal, 24th October 2009

Seemingly from the brains behind the Mystic Pizza musical comes the long-awaited stage adaptation of Rain Man. It’s a strange decision to try and transpose what is ostensibly a road movie to the stage. Stranger still is the decision to replace Dustin Hoffman with actor of his generation Neil Morrissey. If anyone could be relied upon to provide a sensitive portrayal of the Autistic Raymond Babbit, it is surely the one from Men Behaving Badly who isn’t Doc Martin.

Of course Rain Man isn’t really a story about Autism, but a story about relationships (and Tom Cruise’s futile quest for an Oscar), and that’s just as well as Morrissey seemed to have confused Autism with a cross between Osteoporosis and Tourette’s. Whilst Oliver Chris (you know, that man who’s in things) quite skillfully portrayed Charlie Babbit’s journey from moral blank to caring brother, Morrissey ‘spazzed up’ to a quite spectacular degree. Why have one physical tick when three or four will do seemed to be his attitude as he honked and shuffled his way through the first half. Yep, he was playing it strictly for laughs, whether that was the intention or not. There were moments when the other players appeared to be corpsing in the face of Morrissey’s method onslaught.

Rainman195copy

That’s not to give the play a total kicking; the story was briskly paced and there were some genuinely funny moments. Charles Lawson (Coronation Street’s Jim MacDonald, so it is) as Dr Breuner and Ruth Everett as Charlie’s girlfriend Susan offered able support (that’s now ‘able support’ and ‘journey’ ticked off in a theatre review) and the last third, when Morrissey turned his ACTING down a notch and the two brothers finally connected really was quite moving. The problem really is that the play was always going to be stymied by its limitations. Most scenes were set in what were essentially Travelodge rooms, and the famous casino scene was pretty much reduced to them walking out of the casino and saying “whew, that was fun, counting cards, eh?” The relative brevity of the play (under two hours) also meant the relationship somewhat clunkily transferred from Charlie repeatedly calling Raymond “a fucking retard” (to inappropriate gales of laughter from the audience. Idiots) to them hugging it out in the waiting room at the courthouse. There was definitely a good play in there trying to get out, but for one reason or another, this wasn’t it.

The most depressing element though is that this type of vaguely lazy theatre, with clumsily adapted movie scripts and TV personalities is becoming more and more common, at the expense of original writing and young, upcoming thesps. I understand that the former has to exist in order to fund the latter but it seems the balance has become totally skewed. Of course you could use the Harry Potter analogy that anything that gets people going to the theatre is a good thing. But if you take that argument to its natural conclusion, you could say that at least the Moors Murderers were getting out in the countryside. I of course would never say such a thing. That would be in very poor taste.

In summation: Okay, but I’d rather watch Heat on DVD.