After being a finalist for Samuel French’s off-Broadway Award and longlisted for The Theatre uncut Political Playwriting Award, Rainer returns with vengeance to Arcola’s Outside Theatre and wows us all. A one-woman show about a lonely romantic who, deep down, is desperate for connection, yet hides this behind misanthropy.
Rainer is a bicycle delivery rider who travels all around London; from high rise luxury flats to scarce buildings. Through monologues and a series of interactions with people from all walks of life, she finds herself in some unusual situations. It is a celebration of a city, but with a subtext of mental health and the effects the global pandemic has left us in.
Performer Sorcha Kennedy brings great vitality and force to not just Rainer but all those she meets along the way, in a vast array of wonderful characterisations and sardonic wit. One particular highlight is the stereotypical plummy throated and controlling housemate, who every time Kennedy rapidly morphs into, has the audience cackling out loud.
Director Nico Rao Pimparé manages to draw out all the necessary themes to vivid life; bringing home the topic of keyworkers importance and their value over the past two years. He emphasises through the fast-paced interchanging of scenes and situations just how essential to so many of us these keyworkers were. Also, the idea that one city is full of such diversity; status’, accents, values, backgrounds, beliefs, countries and ethnicities all in small proximity. Yet essentially, we are all looking for the same thing; a connection.
Rainer’s vitality is what ultimately makes this piece; I found myself at the edge of my seat throughout. Vibrant lighting and sound then make it even punchier. There are consistent triggers of visceral feelings. Rainer comes across creepy men, abusive bosses, manipulative friends, solitary elders, nasty exes, rejecting emails, lonely people on dating apps, grief-stricken pain of bereavement. There is a relevant to everyone and anyone who would listen and along with Rainer, we, the audience felt it all.
Writer Max Wilkinson’s genius of imagination takes you on a journey with eclectic statements and ideas that makes it hard to not brighten your eyes at the thought of it and wonder if you’re not really there with Rainer themself; ‘chess with a gravedigger and a bath with the mayor of Camden.’
For the entire hour, I was transfixed, thinking about nothing else except Rainer. The direction, writing, set, lighting and performance were all at an exceptional level. I left feeling melancholy, but in the best way; a subtle but genuine triumph.
Written by: Max Wilkinson
Directed by: Nico Rao Pimparé
Produced by: Alistair Wilkinson
Sound design by: Jethro Cooke
Lighting design by: Jamie Platt
Set design by: Zoe Hurwitz
Rainer plays at Arcola Outside until 18 June. Further information and bookings can be found here.
You can find out more about the play in our recent interview with director Nico ao Pimparé here.