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RAINER at the Arcola Theatre Outside | Review

What began as impressive use of the theatre space became tedious as the show progressed, as Rainer (Sorcha Kennedy) repeatedly left the stage, leaving the audience to choose between swivelling round (sat on fixed benches that do not swivel) to wherever she was, or otherwise treat the show as a radio play until such time as she returned. I wonder if the show was designed for ‘in the round’ performances. Either way, all that moving around was, for me, a metaphor for a frenetic but scattered story.

RainerThis isn’t the first show to highlight the perils of working in the transport and logistics sector (specifically for Rainer, a firm called Angel Deliveries, which seemed to be like a wannabe Deliveroo).

Nothing that transpires in terms of pay and working conditions is a surprise, and on a personal level, having been on the (non) receiving end of a food delivery that was listed on the service provider’s app as ‘delivered’ when it had most certainly not, it was interesting to hear some of the possible reasons why not all orders are fulfilled.

For various reasons, Rainer’s life becomes more chaotic than it perhaps needed to be. The level of activity for a single performer production is remarkable in places, indicative of a character who likes to keep busy and enjoys the buzz and bustle of London, particularly its nightlife. The plotline is, to be fair, credible – a writer who isn’t getting any publishing deals, and therefore finds herself doing other work to pay the bills. Throw in a personal subplot about a love interest called Jack, and the result is a comprehensive portrait of how Rainer got to her present, desperate state.

I suppose it makes for good theatre, as opposed to a utopia in which everything is going swimmingly and there aren’t challenges to overcome. But, as the production itself admits, there isn’t really a moral point or message here – there isn’t, frankly, much to be taken away at all beyond this being a series of events that transpired. That said, this is someone who is doing the best they can in life, so it’s bound to be somewhat relatable to many in some form.

Partly thanks to the nature of Rainer’s delivery job, various place names and suburbs of London are periodically name-dropped: the point that she gets around is slightly overdone. In the course of her employment (if it can be called that: it wasn’t clear to me whether Angel Deliveries drivers are classed as employed or self-employed), she meets people from all walks of life, and tries to help where she can. She is, however, generous to a fault, which eventually counts against her. Elaborating any further on this point would, alas, be giving too much away.

Having begun at a high octane level, the production petering out after a while. A powerhouse performance that would benefit from a more focused narrative, the show could, with some adjustments, become a more gripping experience.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Some guys listen to music, some guys like to sing. I like to work people out.

Rainer keeps on forgetting stuff. Even the city she knows so well. And when her one-time lover Jack disappears, when her mum keeps on calling, she has to ask herself: is everything really OK?

A finalist for Samuel French’s Off-Broadway Award, longlisted for Theatre Uncut’s Political Playwriting Award and winner of the Prix Royal competition in Paris, Rainer is about an invisible person who we always see.

It follows Rainer, a solitary delivery rider, as she moves across London, delivering food to whoever will summon her. From luxury flats to leafy suburbs, she loves to create stories in her head, re-imagining London as one of her favourite Sci-fi films or Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. She loves her life. Until reality starts to slip.

4 October – 9 October 2021


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