There is something about working in the uniformed services (military, police, ambulance, etc) that builds a sense of brotherhood and loyalty not normally found in other occupations. This is particularly true in the police force where officers are putting themselves in the line of fire day in and day out. However, what happens when ‘partners’ have to think about themselves as individuals? That is the heart of Keith Huff’s emotionally draining play A Steady Rain at the Arcola, Dalston.
Chicago cops Denny (Vincent Regan) and Joey (David Schaal) have been best buds since kindergarten. They have grown up together, joined the force together, patrolled together and even been passed over for promotion to detective together. As people, they are very different. Denny has the ‘perfect life’ – nice wife and kids, nice house, big TV in the family room – while Joey is the complete opposite. He lives alone in a single room with none of the trappings of family or friends – unless you count the contents of the bottles he drains most evenings. Despite their differences, these two are firm friends and always back each other up against the outside world – ie anyone that isn’t them. Of course they are individuals as well and each of them has their own secrets of which the other wouldn’t necessarily approve. Still, they go on through life keeping the mean streets clean and safe, sure they don’t always do it by the book, but they are experienced enough to know when certain rules can be bent slightly in order to ‘protect and serve’. Until one night, when everything changes and the two of them have to face not only their relationship but also themselves.
Let’s start with the easiest part of this review, A Steady Rain is not an easy play to watch. The programme says that it is set in the “Not too distant past” and I think that is a very accurate description. Denny and Joey are old fashioned policemen. They have a job to do – keep the streets safe – and don’t let anything get in their way of doing it. Of the two, Denny is the more old fashioned – Joey at least has done a cultural awareness course. Denny however, has a word for every type of person he meets on the streets, and none of them are very complimentary – he sees people as stereotypes, and nothing will dissuade him from that point of view. Denny is an intriguing character in many ways. On the surface, he has everything that a man his age should have and seems proud of it all. However, I did wonder about his feelings for his family. Did he really love his wife and kids or did he see them as another part of his personal possessions, like the house or TV? I will be honest and say that, to me, Denny did not have a single redeeming characteristic and from a personal point of view, I never felt anything but distaste for the character no matter what happened to him. This is in part due to Keith Huff’s writing – which is almost lyrical at times during – but it takes more than just some well written words to bring a character to life and Vincent Regan’s acting skills have to be applauded for making Denny the person he was. The same can be said of David Schaal’s portrayal of Joey.
In some ways, Joey is the more intriguing character and, to me, his relationship with Denny was less equal partners and more like Sergeant Wilson and Captain Mainwaring’s in “Dad’s Army”. The more intelligent ‘sidekick’ trying to reign in the actions of the other but ending up going along with them, even though it was obvious that disaster was round the corner. I personally would have liked to know more about Joey, why he ended up the way he did and more importantly, how he perceived his and Denny’s friendship.
Both characters in this two-hander are written superbly and using the mechanism of individual monologues with some real-time dialogue between them, really works as a storytelling device. Ed Ullyart’s set works really well in the Arcola with the audience on three sides of it and Director Andrew Pearson moves his characters beautifully, with the minimum of props – in fact I have never seen a suit jacket used as effectively as it was in this production. My one negative thought about the setting was the video which, certainly from where I was sitting, was difficult to see and didn’t really seem to add much to the story itself.
A Steady Rain is a complicated story about friendship, love and loyalty and I found it very engaging. Like a few other members of the audience, I gave an audible comment of surprise when certain things happened, which really shows how much I had emotionally invested in the gripping story. Nobody is ever going to like Denny and Joey, but they will leave the theatre at least having an understanding of the type of people they were. A really great piece of theatre.
Review by Terry Eastham
A Steady Rain has its London premiere at Arcola Theatre from Wednesday 10 February – Saturday 5 March, starring Vincent Regan (300, Troy, Clash of the Titans) and David Schaal (The Office, The Inbetweeners).
Creative credits: Writer Keith Huff, Director Andrew Pearson, Set Design Ed Ullyart, Sert Construction Ed Ullyart and Jon Claughton, Lighting Designer Simon Bedwell, Costume Designer Edwina Jackson.
Arcola Theatre presents
The East Riding Theatre Company production of A STEADY RAIN by Keith Huff
Directed by Andrew Pearson
24 Ashwin Street
Wednesday 10 February – Saturday 5 March
Press night: Wednesday 17 February at 7.30pm
Monday – Saturday evenings at 7:30pm
Saturday matinees at 3:00pm
Suitable for 16+
The production features swearing, violence, sexual scenes, smoking, flashing/strobe lights, haze and loud noises