Fringe THEATRE REVIEW: A Steady Rain @The Lantern @ACT

Brian Butler May 19, 2019

“We should know the eyes of a demon when we see them. Otherwise we end up with demons for friends”.

SO says Denny, the hard-bitten, violent, angry and self-deluded Chicago cop who is trapped in a downward spiral that leads inevitably to tragedy in this tense two-hander.

Based on true incidents we walk into the acting space and our seats through a carefully laid-out crime scene, complete with corpse. Above the small acting area water pours down on the actors – ‘the steady rain’ which fell all summer long in Chicago that year.

Largely made up of long, highly descriptive monologues we get to know Denny and his lifelong friend and fellow cop Joey.

It would be simplistic to say we are meeting a bad cop and a good cop because morality seems suspended – at least in Denny’s twisted mind. There’s no doubt that Denny is bent; he takes money off hookers and in return protects them by regularly beating up their pimp. He is racist, which in his moral world is just speaking honestly.

Joey is fundamentally more decent but lonely, almost an alcoholic and desperately needing the friendship of his buddy.

The story is disturbing, at times funny, always poetic and ultimately a modern day Greek tragedy, where the end is set by the actions taken at the play’s opening.

Denny’s claim that “99 per cent of this city is traumatised” is of course absurd, but apart from the fragile family life which Denny is so obsessed with, everything else in this 2-hour drama seems corrupt,  infected and hopelessly lost.

Denny and Joey’s crusade to “serve and protect” becomes horribly distorted and though for one of them the ending seems hopeful, the story is unrelentingly bleak.

Ben Pritchard is a big bald bearded bear of a man- fundamentally good but led astray. He makes us like him despite ourselves. Culann Smyth as the doomed Denny is electric , totally watchable, frenetic, angry and gives one of the outstanding acting performances of the 2019 Brighton Fringe.

It’s not a barrel of laughs as a play but magical in pulling us into this startlingly horrific tale.

A Steady Rain by Keith Huff, directed by Sean Lippett Fall, runs at the Lantern (ACT) in Rock Place , Brighton until May 26.

Review by Brian Butler

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