In Rain Man, something that could’ve turned out so stereotypical due to the ham-fisted way that its delicate subject matter has been dealt with in other media, becomes an emotive and overall beautiful piece of theatre, primarily thanks to both the plot on which it is based and the outstanding performances, especially from its two lead actors.
The set is simple, but when it comes to theatre there’s often a kind of beauty in simplicity; and some of the transitions between scenes are a little slow, but this is mostly alleviated through the catchy, period and setting appropriate music that plays in between each scene.
What really brings this show to life is the performances – two very different parts mean that it is impossible to judge one against the other. Downton Abbey alumni Ed Speleers delivers a smooth, energetic and moving performance as Charlie. And, although he’s primarily known for a very different role on the comedy Gavin and Stacey, Mathew Horne is also incredibly effective as Charlie’s Autistic brother Raymond, as he carefully pinpoints and recreates specific mannerisms of the character, down to every last movement and is highly convincing as a result, as opposed to playing up to basic stereotypes and doing nothing else, as so many others have done in the past.
The way in which Charlie comes to understand his brother is a beautiful journey to witness and the ending will bring a tear even to the eyes of audience members with hearts of stone.
As someone with Autism myself, I’ve seen my fair share of tired stereotypes, with the majority of representation being both rare and robotic when it does happen – and I can safely say that this show has my seal of approval.