STAGE REVIEW: Rain Man - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, February 5 to Saturday, February 9, 2019.

HOT on the heels of a tragic tale about twin-brothers who didn’t know about each other comes another story about brothers at the Festival - but this time there’s a much happier outcome.

For Blood Brothers swap the enduring and endearing story of Rain Man, in which childhood memories eventually arouse the forging of brotherly love.

Recalling the excellent MGM film starring two major superstars of the celluloid world, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, and the chemistry that was sparked as the Babbitt brothers, Charlie and Raymond, the move onto the stage could easily have fallen into dangerous, unexplored territory.

However, it doesn’t come short on expectations with writer Dan Gordon’s stage adaptation coping delightfully with the complex story and characters as the script diligently stays as true as possible to the original work.

The brothers are reunited after their father’s death - but how different they are.

Chris Fountain’s bitter, brash, and business-driven Charlie operates, on the surface, without compassion, and seems a most unlikely companion for the ‘savant’ Raymond, his elder brother, on this occasion played by the superb Adam Lilley.

He returned to the role this week due to Paul Nicholls being taken ill, but he had played the part during the 2018 section of the play’s UK tour.

The brothers are two very different characters but steadily their relationship is cemented as Charlie realises who is the ‘Rain Man’ of his very early years.

Excellent support is offered by Elizabeth Carter as Charlie’s long-suffering girl friend, Susan. She is the guiding hand on the moral compass who cares greatly for Raymond and eventually gets the hard-swearing Charlie to soften and listen to the gentle wind slowly bringing the pair closer together.

Dominic Taylor as Raymond’s matter-of-fact but caring medical man, Dr Bruener - who runs the institute where he had been taken into care many years ago, also impresses.

There’s no attempt with the set to match what film can offer in abundance but the dialogue is crafted quite handsomely and with considerable warmth. The simplicity of the set and the routine to its subtle changes were the perfect balance for the routine required by Raymond in his everyday life.

Barry Morrow’s original story, which is set in the 1980s, could occur in any decade and still be felt as a moving experience.

And its final scene - with just the brothers together, provides a most touching climax to a first class theatrical offering, and one that fully deserved the warmth and spontaneous reaction it generated from a disappointingly small but appreciative audience.

After a successful first year of this inaugural production of Bill Kenwright’s Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company, the decision to extend Rain Man’s run into 2019 is one that deserves to succeed.