Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, itís hard to argue with the calibre of top names that Milton Keynes Theatre is able to draw.
With a new season just unveiled that includes Connie Fisher in The Sound of Music, Bobby Davro headlining panto and the National Theatre on tour, there are stars aplenty and some big shows coming to the city of roundabouts.
Hot from a highly successful and acclaimed run Londonís West End, the stage adaptation of hit movie Rain Man is the latest to arrive, complete with autistic turn from Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey.
Having proved with Waterloo Road that he can do straight acting, Morrissey here stretches his range still further with a strong evocation of the part that Dustin Hoffman so memorably created on celluloid. And the characterisation is an eye-opener.
Besides the tics and quirks so carefully delivered in this fascinating performance, Morrissey brings a real warmth and depth to the character of Raymond, the autistic savant whose $12 million inheritance from his father incurs the wrath of a younger brother, Charlie, who hadnít even known of his existence.
As Charlie, Oliver Chris is a fast-talking, cold-hearted embodiment of ambition whose journey Ė both geographical and emotional Ė with Raymond sees him unfurl and find his own true nature as well as that of his brother. The two performances are mutually complementary, endlessly illuminating and full of intelligence.
Dan Gordonís script adaptation is inevitably somewhat episodic, with occasionally cumbersome sets slowing up the pace and vigour of the brothersí road trip, while Hoffman and Tom Cruise are always going to be tough acts to follow.
But thereís a genuine soul at the heart of director Robin Herfordís production that carries it through any shortcomings and makes this more than simply an exercise in star casting.
- Michael Davies