Thursday, February 19, 2009

A complete shower: Three Days of Rain

Or should that be Two Hours of Pain?

Tedious doesn't even begin to cover Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain. According to the programme, the play is called Three Days of Rain FULL STOP, which is indicative of how seriously it takes itself: this play does not just have a name, it is a statement. It is meaningful. Even if it is vapid and meaningless.

The first act shows the combustions of mysterious, troubled Walker (James McAvoy, a first class ham which is off its lithium), his mild, troubled sister Nan (Lyndsey Marshal), and their manic, troubled friend Pip (Nigel Harman). They are to learn what Walker and Nan's famous architect father has left them in his will: who will gain possession of a house so described as to resemble most closely a cross between Falling Water and the Taj Mahal?

Thirty-five years earlier (although it feels later), the second act shows their parents, the famous architect Ned (McAvoy, who brings out a prize stutter and some rather affecting acting), his partner Theo (Harman, still manic) and the girl Ned steals from Theo (too late for a *spoiler* I suppose), Lina (Marshal). They have combustions over Theo's lack of talent and Ned's talent.

Harman runs away and almost his entire role in the second act is to walk back and forth across the front of the stage while it rains. He has one speech. For heaven's sake, if you have three characters, use them - don't try and establish some parallelism with the first act then toss away one corner of the triangle.

While Harman is getting soaked to the skin, McAvoy is getting down to his, prompting mass faintings among the audience, who were clearly there because they had loved Greenberg's earlier Donmar drama, Take Me Out, about gay baseball players.

There is supposed to be tension between Ned and Lina, because she is Theo's girlfriend and manic, he is an unassuming genius, some sexual chemistry even, but there is none: it's a shower, rather than a storm. (The title is a hostage to fate.)

There are no grand themes here: the personal, which can be universal or even simply powerfully-rendered, is banal. We cannot make meaningful connections between the two acts - the mental disturbances of Walker (Ned: 'I always wanted to be a flaneur, you know, a walker') may stem from his mother's problems or his father's reticence, but the second act is so flimsy that it is hard to identify them.

The title comes from a brief entry in Ned's diary, which Walker has found. It is supposed - through cunning understatement - to evoke the grand passion of the three days when he and Lina fell in love, but it - just like the play - is a damp squib.

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