Three Days of Rain stars Lyndsey Marshal, Nigel Harman and James McAvoy
Now it's back, with Lyndsey Marshal (in The Hours, and Cleopatra in HBO's Rome), Nigel Harman (EastEnders' Denis, now making a stage name for himself with things like Guys and Dolls, The Caretaker and The Common Pursuit) and back-from-Hollywood James McAvoy. Last night, we were curious to know whether this trio could do justice to a great modern play, and despite two-thirds of the cast having silver screen aspirations, give us a good night's theatre. We're happy to report they can.
Three Days of Rain is a play played backwards, the first act takes place in the 1990s; the second in the 1960s. It examines the expression "like father like son" through the wrong end of a telescope: we meet the kids before their parents, and it's only in the second half that many of the earlier part's unanswered questions are finally illuminated. There's also lots of water on stage: sit near the front, and you may find some of the three days' worth of rain affects you too.
Greenberg's play sees siblings Nan (Marshal) and Walker (McAvoy) meet after a long separation, in a dusty, neglected New York loft. The space once belonged to their father, Ned Janeway, part of a celebrated architectural pairing, now dead.
McAvoy plays Walker as a Holden Caulfieldian mess of emo, calling himself an "impossible person," grieving self-consciously over what he perceives is his silent father's lack of love. Harman plays Pip, an exuberant, shallow, TV actor for whom everything seems easy and breezy, including chatting to the silent Ned (his father's business partner). When Pip quips, "I feel bad; I go to the gym; I feel better" it's an almost unbearable response to Walker's haunted inability to shake off the gloom.
The trio banter and wrangle over life, architecture, theatre, and their contradictory memories of their parents. The reading of the will, the fate of their fathers' iconic New York house, and the discovery of Ned's typically curt journal, opening with the simple entry "Three days of rain", provoke further questions. If only the greying, dark, dusty walls and furniture on set could speak, you feel some of the threesome's aching questions would be answered.
And in the second half, a lit-up, cosy set reveals its secrets as those mysterious three days of rain are played out. Marshall returns as a boozy bohemia-searching Southern belle caught between two men; Harman and McAvoy play Pip and Walker's fathers, Ned and Theo, the latter with a beautifully convincing stutter, and an utterly charming air of quietly talented charisma. Harman fares less well as the tortured architect failing to come up with anything new: he wanders around in the heavy rain quite a bit, and gets very wet (the whole cast do) which makes convincing acting more difficult, we imagine.
Nevertheless, it’s a gripping, neat play and the tiny cast are pretty much superb. It raises interesting questions about the nature of memory, different perceptions of relationships and personalities. Depending on your areas of expertise, you might spot some or all of "its knowing references to Hegel, Heidegger, Steinbeck, Sophocles and Ibsen, not to mention Trimalchio's Feast" (thanks, Michael); alternatively, we're sure you'll enjoy seeing James McAvoy acting his pants off in just his pants, and Nigel Harman going from funny and camp to wet and cross in the course of a great evening's theatre.
Three Days of Rain plays at the Apollo Theatre until 9 May. Tickets £16-£47.