REVIEW: A STEADY RAIN (Arcola Theatre)

A Steady Rain was written by Keith Huff who also wrote Mad Men and House of Cards. The 2009 Broadway production starred Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. Stephen Spielberg will direct the film version with producer Barbara Broccoli. That’s some high expectation for this version at The Arcola Theatre.

This 2015 stage production from East Riding Theatre Company casts Vincent Regan and David Schaal as ageing cops hoping to get promoted to detectives. Denny and Joey are partners; friends since school, they now work together as beat cops in Chicago. Denny has a wife and children; Joey is single and a regular presence in Denny’s family home. Both men rely on and support each other through their various troubles. In two acts we see their friendship and partnership tested to destruction as they each face their demons.

This is a dark, violent play told through words rather than deeds. The tale is told with individual monologues interspersed with real-time dialogue between the partners as situations unfold. Beginning with an incident in Denny’s home, we follow bad decision upon bad decision reaching a climax back at Denny’s house where the tale ends.

This play will only work well with two strong actors to deliver the speeches with emotion and create a convincing relationship between two men who know everything about each other. Regan and Schaal are certainly up to the job. We only meet Denny and Joey; all the other characters are introduced through their words. Each scene is seen through the eyes of the two men, often described in graphic detail.

On entering the theatre, the room is dark and smoky. The actors are already on the stage, watching the audience fill the room, inhabiting their characters in front of us; watching us as we watch them. The set is sparse; two chairs, a metal table and a water cooler. The rest of the setting we see through the words of Joey and Denny. A window at the back of the stage and a strip of projection help with location but it’s really all about the two men in front of us.

This is a gritty play, performed by two actors who work well together. It benefits from the small space as it’s all about the actors in front of us. It’s not a play for the faint hearted, but it is well worth watching. If you don’t know the story already, keep it that way to appreciate the full impact of this tragic tale.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Nick Rutter

A Hard Rain is playing at the Arcola Theatre, London until 5 March 2016