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Culture, Theatre, Comedy

Rain Man:

Ed Speleers and Mathew Horne

Sam Bennett
Ed Speleers and Matthew Horne on Rain Ma
Rain Man © Photographer Paul Coltas

Gavin and Stacey’s Mathew Horne and Downton Abbey’s Ed Speleers are currently starring in the Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company’s production of Rain Man. Playing at Milton Keynes Theatre this month, the Jonathan O’Boyle-directed production is inspired by the Oscar-winning and much-loved film starring Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt, and Dustin Hoffman as his long-lost brother Raymond. We got in touch with Speleers – for whom Rain Man marks his stage debut – and Horne for a chat about their careers thus far, and this latest endeavour.



There’s an intensity – I think that’s just because of the timeframe we’ve got to get to the point we need to be at. This is a new process for me professionally; there are times when I feel like I’m all over the place, and times when I feel like things are making a lot of sense – that’s all part of it. It’s going very well, I’m loving it, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to do something like this.


I got a very lucky break at 17 to do a big film (well, a big-budget film). In hindsight, what I should have done after that is gone to drama school, taken the more traditional route, but when you’re 18 you don’t really think like that.

But it was always an ambition to get onto the stage; I loved doing it at school – that made me want to be an actor. I’ve been close to doing plays before, but not felt the role or time was right. I was always of the mind that it had to be the right moment and the right part – that was key.


It’s not like we’re remaking the film; the play is its own entity. People say, ‘Do you feel pressure following someone like Tom Cruise?’ Well, I’m not really following him. Yes, it’s his role on the screen, but I think this is another avenue – I’m trying to create my own interpretation.


Charlie’s bravado, swagger, backstory, and relationship – or lack of – with his father, shows me a man who’s very unhappy. I need to get my head around that. I’m also fascinated by anybody who can leave home at 16, what it takes to get to the point where you need to leave home when you’re still essentially a child.


I don’t want to speak for Mat on how he is approaching or putting his character together, but I’ve been quite mesmerised by how ‘on it’ he’s been. I’m forming a very quick, growing affection for the man because I think he’s a lovely bloke – and he’s delivering his role with aplomb.


I think it came along at the right time. We were on the back of the financial crash and people were looking for a bit of escapism. It was also good writing; Julian Fellowes is a great writer, and he wrote brilliant episodes and developed wonderful characters – and it was a lovely place to work.


I know it sounds slightly morbid and I don’t mean it to, but we’re not here for a massive amount of time. So when different opportunities come your way, take them with both hands. Sometimes in my game you have to be a bit careful about what you do and don’t do, I do support that but I think it’s also good to have an open mind when it comes to work, and just go for things when they crop up.



Part of the excitement of doing theatre is that, although you’re doing eight shows a week, you get one shot on the night – you just get that two hours or whatever it is to do your thing, and there’s no going back, there’s no doing it again. There are so many variables between yourself the other actors and what days they’ve had, the audience and the kind of days they’ve had, the environment, the temperature – everything is completely different every night. People always ask me, ‘What’s it like doing the same thing eight times a week?’ But it’s just not the same thing. It’s completely different. Whereas on camera you’re waiting around to do a tiny bit of exactly the same thing – it’s the opposite, they’re polar opposite jobs.


When you’re presented with a piece like this, which comes from an iconic film, and an actor who is also iconic and someone who I idolised when I was growing up, you’ve got two things going on – one is the absolute joy and excitement of being offered an opportunity like this, but then the flip side is the absolute terror of taking on something that is so iconic and, I suppose, filling those shoes. But that fear and terror don’t outweigh the excitement. It’s certainly not enough to stop you from doing it. There’s only one answer to the question, and that’s to do it and take it on.


We’re only three days into rehearsals but I’m so excited for him because he’s already giving so much – it’s going to be amazing. I’m really thrilled to be working with him, he’s absolutely electric. I really like him; I think he’s a dynamite actor.


Theatre at the moment is very much of the time we’re at sociopolitically. That’s a natural thing, for art to imitate life or for the social, sociopolitical, and geopolitical landscape to be reflected in art. But at the same time there is also room for escapism and that’s what theatre should be about. We should be holding a mirror up to the world, but at the same time we should also be providing entertainment and a means to escape. I think that 50 per cent of what we’re trying to do with Rain Man – it sounds quite trite but I think it’s important in these difficult times – is about providing a robust, entertaining, touching and moving night out at the theatre. The themes of what we’re doing may resonate with different people for different reasons within the context of where we are at the moment, but at the end of the day we need to provide a great night out at the theatre, and I think we’re going to do that.


It’s difficult to say what my most challenging role has been. On the one hand I would say Jon Moss in the Boy George film, because I was playing somebody who not only had existed but still exists. So you don’t want to do a disservice, you want to pay homage, you want to be truthful, you want to be authentic, and it’s important to meet the expectations of the person you’re playing. But at the same time I would also say perhaps Gavin Shipman was also my biggest challenge, because unlike what is commonly perceived, which is that I am that person, that man is actually very different to who I am, so that was probably the biggest stretch – to play somebody traditional, who wanted quite traditional and conservative things from his life. So I had to draw on experiences I’ve had with people – male friends in the past – in order to play him as truthfully and faithfully as possible, because actually the reality is that Gavin is quite far from who I am.


It did capture people’s hearts because of the hopefulness and the ideology of it. It is wonderful to have got a show under my belt during my career that I can be really proud of and people really love. More importantly to me personally, my mum and dad love it, and loved watching it, and would have loved watching even if I wasn’t in it. That’s the really important thing to me as an actor and human being, for my parents to be proud of something that I’ve done. I can say I’ve got that and nobody can take that away.

Rain Man plays at Milton Keynes Theatre 3-8 September, and then embarks on the remainder of its UK tour.


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