Rainer, Arcola Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

Rainer isn’t fussed about the sort of day job she does, as long as it gives her the opportunity to meet people. Currently working as a bike courier for Angel Deliveries, the young writer narrates the trips that take her all over London delivering food. Her story is punctuated with anecdotes of getting too involved with customers, as well as escapades with her flatmate, sessions with her therapist, and aching odes to London. Her bicycle, named Jean, takes her on these adventures as well as gives her the means to outride her demons, but ultimately they are quicker than her.

This monologue by Max Wilkinson deftly leaps between lyrical descriptions of London’s many neighbourhoods and landmarks, and stories from Rainer’s life. Poetry, party and fatigue effortlessly interweave, creating a physical and mental landscape that will be familiar to most, if not all, Londoners. These could easily become generic, but Rainer’s individual character – and her issues – becomes more prominent as the show progresses. Sorcha Kennedy depicts Rainer as a ball of positive energy at the start, but we soon learn this is a mask covering a fragile, unreliable and very ill narrator. This gradual reveal, combined with Kennedy’s infectious enthusiasm, is an engaging combination that makes her deterioration all the more devastating.

Apart from some sound issues and delayed lighting cues that can no doubt be sorted with time, this is a hugely promising production that does not shy away from the brutality of mental illness and poverty, yet it still drenched in hope. The script’s deliberate meandering is effectively paced and lovingly told, and ultimately sculpts a comforting image of the city and its many inhabitants.

Rainer runs through 9 October.

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