After fighting through such a deluge you would think that nothing could have dampened them or their spirits further. But you would be wrong.
Because before one gets to the promised Three Days of Rain (and excitingly there is actually rain on stage) one must endure Three Quarters of an Hour of Exposition.
Manhattan, 1995: Brother and sister Walker (James McAvoy) and Nan (Lyndsey Marshal) meet in their wealthy architect father Ned’s loft prior to the reading of his will. Walker is mentally unstable and prone to disappearing for long periods of time. The loft is dusty (impressively so!) and long vacated. For reasons which are not made clear but may have been symbolic, all that remains is a draughtsman’s drawing table, a mattress on the floor and the tallest transom window ever built.
At stake is the iconic 1960s New York house named after a later Star Trek captain which was designed by their father and his business partner Theo. Walker and Nan are joined by their childhood friend (and Theo’s son) Pip (Nigel Harman) and – not before time – things begin to happen and secrets are revealed.
But up until then it’s just a whole lot of yackety yack yack yacking, most of which is delivered directly and shamelessly to the audience. Supposedly key moments are underscored by sinister background music, presumably to make us think something is important or interesting is going on. We weren’t fooled. It wasn’t.*
The Whingers had had quite enough of characters banging on about events off-stage in Complicit and sadly TDOR seemed to be running along the same misguided guttering.
None of this was helped by the fact that McAvoy’s character was annoying and excitable and capable of only one style of delivery. On and on he went like some Chinese Water Torture.
Indeed, as the curtain came down at the interval a disconsolate Andrew suggested that if they ran the Whingers might be able to make the Old Vic in time for Act 2 of Complicit which was now looking like a masterpiece of dramatic story-telling.
Thankfully things picked up in the second act which introduces the conceit of the same actors playing their Act 1 characters’ parents in the same loft in 1960 and finally we get to see people and things which were so exhaustingly described or alluded to in Act 1.
It really was only now that Mister McAvoy got to show his acting skills, Miss Marshall got to do a southern accent (sadly at the expense of her diction) and Mister Harman got to stand around in the rain a lot.
The titular three days of rain turned out to be a reference to a one-line journal entry (“diary, ” corrects McAvoy’s character. What’s the difference? “I’m a boy”). Anyway, happily for the Whingers rain lashed most convincingly across the front of the stage on several occasions (courtesy of Rain Sculptures). The Whingers had to admit they were impressed and were glad they hadn’t headed off to the Old Vic after all.
Mister McAvoy looked very fetching in his wet vest**, but all the wetness brought about some very distracting issues for Phi: all the actors received substantial soakings and poor Mister McAvoy had to carry on acting in saturated jim-jams while Mister Harman seemed to have little else to do in the second act other than to stand about suffering several drenchings.
Phil – whose mother drummed such things into him at an early age – became very concerned that the cast might all too soon go down with something rather nasty. Understudies seem de trop in the West End at the moment but even so the producers are taking a huge risk with their crowd-puller Mister McAvoy. And is the water chlorinated? Judging by the food preparation scene displayed earlier in which a salad was prepared with no sign of being washed what are the standards of health and hygiene in TDOR? Phil was beginning to have another of his Howard Hughes moments.
And what about the bedding, which looked dangerously close to the rain effects? The water seemed to be splashing everywhere. Were they trying to recreate the wet bed/dry beds (don’t ask) at Miami’s famous Fontainebleau hotel described by Matt Rudd in this weekends Sunday Times travel section?
Anyway, it all seemed to be a bit of a damp squib really despite the best efforts of the actors whose obvious talents (Mister Harman does a very good physical twitchy thing, for instance) were rather wasted on this play.
It was with some relief that the Whingers stepped back out onto Shaftesbury Avenue not only because the play had ended but also because the rain outside seemed to have stopped. Perhaps the producers had attached a giant funnel to the top of the Apollo theatre to save money on their presumably very expensive rain effects which were all the Whingers and their entourage wanted talk about.
Pure theatrical Niagara.***
* Even the trailer struggles to find anything tangible to say about it.
** There was a large crowd outside waiting to see Mister McAvoy – more than we saw waiting for Mister Christian Slater or Mister Ralph Fiennes. We didn’t hang around because he seems to be yet another of those people (like Mister Bale) who goes to Hollywood and acquires a bit of a potty mouth. Or perhaps it’s just because he comes from Glasgow.
*** Phil is very pleased with this, obviously. Even Andrew grudgingly had to admit that it was funny.