Review – Three Days of Rain, Apollo Theatre

Tuesday 10 February 2009

three-days-of-rainIt was a very wet and somewhat bedraggled party of 10 that turned up at the Apollo Theatre for Richard Greenberg‘s appropriately titled Three Days of Rain last night.

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.

Update: Reviews are in from others in our party: John Morrison, LondonTheatreGoer, Webcowgirl. Feigned Mischief has yet to pronounce on the subject


15 Responses to “Review – Three Days of Rain, Apollo Theatre”

  1. Ben Says:

    Thank you for not letting me see this seemingly terrible play.

    Some typos-

    ‘interesting is is going’
    ‘McAvoy’s characterwass annoying’
    ‘Thankfully things pickeed up in the second’
    ‘described or allluded to in Act 1’
    ‘all seemed to be be a bit of a damp’

    What about ‘A View From The Bridge’? I may well see that instead.

  2. JohnnyFox Says:

    @ Ben

    you missed ‘the tallest transom window every built’.

    If you’re going to be the Whingers resident sub-editor, at least be thorough.

    I hope you enjoy A View from the Fridge.

  3. […] 9, 2009. Three Days of Rain runs until May 2nd, 2009. For another view on the show, please see the West End Whingers site.) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The Importance of Being Earnest – The […]

  4. Mark Shenton Says:

    Phil is not the only one pleased with his dubbing of this show as “Pure theatrical Niagara”. I passed it on last night to both Michael Coveney and Charlie Spencer (original source of the “pure theatrical viagra” quote!), and both have alluded to it in their reviews today in the Indie and Telegraph respectively! Congratulations!

  5. I think Phil is consulting his lawyers regarding lack of attribution but in the meantime thanks for blowing the whistle, Mark.

  6. Phil Says:

    scream today’s Evening Standard placards –
    do they mean Shaftesbury Avenue?

  7. Tim Earney Says:

    I was also there last night and I thought the play was brilliant. The first half was fairly slow to get going…but the second half of the play turned the whole thing around – genius!

  8. Bella Says:

    Made the slight mistake of reading your review about 45 minutes before arriving at the Apollo and thought there’s a wasted evening.

    My partner reassured me that whilst WEW were always entertaining they were not always right. Or at lest not right for other people – obviously right for themselves.

    And so it proved to be the case on this occasion. We both thoroughly enjoyed an impressive performance of a witty, sometimes poignant, but hugely entertaining play. I won’t bother to give a detailed review. It is sufficient to say that for most of the review above, whatever WEW say they are almost exactly 100 per cent wrong. Apart from the size of the transom. Accurate but irrelevant.

    The only other point of note was that the Apollo really needs a sloping stage if they are going to continue to use the front rows. We were in row four and it’s just as well the play wasn’t Twelfth Night or we would have missed Malvolio’s cross gartered stockings altogether.

  9. daveonthego Says:

    Mark Epsiner suggests people should quote the whingers.

  10. webcowgirl Says:

    I’ve noticed there are a fair bit of people out there who are members of Nigel Harman and James McAvoy’s fan clubs who are finding any criticism of this play really offensive. I feel like people should be able to say they’ve seen more than two plays in a year before they go jumping in and saying that a critical review is wrong. I get the idea from the depths of their own response to a non-laudatory viewpoint that they are so amazed, once they tear themselves away from the telly, to see that someone can stand on stage and actually remember two consecutive line without a teleprompter, that they think they must be witnessing something truly wonderful. Ah well. Make them go once a week, giving up their precious cash and beauty sleep in exchange for three hours of what we damned well hope every time will be “entertainment,” and we’ll see how they feel then!

    Speaking of which, Southwark Playhouse’s Midsummer Night’s Dream was great (my embarassingly enthusiastic review available if you’re interested) and SO cheap, try to catch it if you can. (Also has a nice tight running time suitable for school nights – what a relief!)

  11. Bella Says:

    Blimey – someone touched a nerve with webcowgirl. Critical reviews are never wrong for they are only opinions.

    Interestingly (and blindingly obvious) that also means they are never right, and those who seek to pretend they are should get off their pretentious high horses and remember that someone who goes once in a lifetime is equally entitled to a point of view as someone who seeks to comment for the benefit of themselves (and sometimes others) on a more regular basis.

    I think it is occasionally useful for ordinary but regular theatre goers – like me – to point out to people who are seeking a steer that the performance may not always live down (or up – King Lear) to the review.

    If webcowgirl wants to give up precious cash and gossip time in exchange for three hours of what we damned well hope every time will be “entertainment,” she should try supporting Southampton FC on a regular basis and we’ll see how she feels then.

    Three Days of Rain performed by people who I haven’t knowingly seen before and may never see again remains for me a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the the theatre – a view shared by the overwhelming majority of the know-nothing TV junkie proles who attended on the evening I was there. Or maybe the enthusiastic applause was just coachloads of Japanese being polite.

  12. hana Says:

    thought the play was brilliant. Slow going in the start. But second half made full sense and justified lot of information received in the first half. Interesting interpretation of the possibility of how far the line that he wrote the diary only when he was happy can be taken. Should we interpret it that he was happy when theo was dying?
    Mcavoy and hartman were fantastic.

  13. DeeDee Says:

    Just saw the show on Tuesday (17 March) with benefit of an after-show Q&A featuring the director and the three actors. Your line about ‘pure theatrical Niagara’ came to mind during the rainy bits, and couldn’t keep a laugh back. Hana’s thoughts above about, vis-a-vis was Ned happy Theo was dying, reflect something Steve and I thought about afterward. We have to disagree (mostly) with the Whingers on this one — but felt Marshal’s Nan didn’t demonstrate a sisterly familiarity or connection with McAvoy’s Walker in the first act. Would have liked to have seen the ‘missing third act’ — what happens to Walker? Or how did Ned and Theo get back together to work in the four years between the end of the second act and Theo’s death? Mysteries all. Too bad the giggly McAvoy groupies were making so much noise, though …

  14. Geraldine Says:

    Saw this play last Monday (May 4th) and thought it was superb. I go to the theatre frequently, and have seen many fine performances over the years – these were among the best I have seen. I found the play captivating from the start – I WANTED to know what happened, and how the ‘present’ generation came to be what they were – the second act explained most of this. Like one of the reviewers about, I too would love to see ‘Act 3’ and learn what happened in the intervening years. The play ends in the Apollo tomorrow so it’s really too late to recommend people to ‘go see it’ – but if you’re free tomorrow, and can get a ticket – then go see it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: