‘Rainer’ Is A Love Letter To Grimy, Glorious London: Review

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Image Credit: Arcola Theatre

★★★★★

Key worker. It’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot of over the last twenty months. Peaking in search results in early March 2020, it took the eruption of a global pandemic for Great Britain to acknowledge the underpaid and undervalued angels on the front line. 

Rainer is a love letter to these essential operators—who stitch us up, ferry us around, and bring us reinforcements when we’re too hungover to move. In this 70-minute play, powerhouse Sorcha Kennedy is the titular Rainer. She has worked every job under the London sun but harbours dreams of becoming a published author.  

Written by Max Wilkinson and directed by Nico Pimparé, Rainer takes place on a wooden stage nestled in the heart of Dalston. As Rainer glides across the capital on her trusty bicycle—named after British novelist Jean Rhys—she meets all manner of personalities. London is a city where the uber wealthy live among families on the poverty line. Angel Deliveries worker Rainer serves them all with a smile.  

A gifted storyteller, Sorcha Kennedy makes the bare setting come alive. With each spin of the bike’s wheels, images flash in the imaginations of the audience. Suddenly we are in the Shard, Camden Lock and Hoxton, Soho and Finsbury Park. Composer Johanna Burnheart illustrates Rainer’s journeys with a score that matches her ecstatic highs and melancholic lows. 

After coming to the need of countless customers, Rainer stumbles across her own angel: kind stranger Jack. This saviour looks set to bring her out of a dark hole of isolation and mental illness. He is attentive and takes care of her. He suggests dates in Waterloo. But this is real life and they are no Terry and Julie.  

Kennedy is incredibly impressive as the multi-faceted Rainer. She is the only person to grace the stage, and yet manages to bring to life dozens of unseen Londoners. These customers are Rainer’s support network, though she receives varying levels of attention from each of them. Her vivid imagination allows her to carve out stories from a few seconds of interaction. These tales set her soul alight. She gets more value from serving plates to strangers than from the crumbs thrown by her flatmate. With a default setting of head in the clouds and hand clutching a wine glass, Skylar “doesn’t know love, she only knows ketamine”. We get the impression that these fleeting moments of contact with strangers is all Rainer needs to feel appreciated. By her own admission, she is the one who does the ghosting to avoid letting people in.  

As a courier, Rainer doesn’t have to stay in one place for long. And when she does linger—in pubs and clubs—she is haunted by memories she would rather forget.  

Kennedy, a Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduate, embodies characters in a witty and fast-paced manner not dissimilar to comedian and fellow Londoner Catherine Tate.  

Beautifully produced by Haylin Cai, Rainer is a tribute to London in all its grime and glory. A reminder to never lose hope, this is a play for every single night bus dreamer who knows they are destined for more. Rainer is a lesson in accepting your past, looking forward to your future, and observing history as it is happening. 

Rainer is showing at Arcola Theatre’s Outdoor Space from 6th to 9th October 2021. 

Words by Tayler Finnegan


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