A Steady Rain

Keith Huff
East Riding Theatre Company
Arcola Theatre (Studio 1)

David Schaal as Joey and Vincent Regan as Denny Credit: Nick Rutter

Denny and Joey are a couple of long-serving Caucasian Chicago cops, partners in their squad car, who both feel they have been passed over for promotion. They've been best mates since boyhood, always stood by each other.

Joey had a drinking problem, Denny helped him through it, made him part of his family, always welcome in their house. Denny is impulsive and doesn’t always play by the rule book, Joey knows he takes regular bribes from tarts and is regularly unfaithful to his wife with one of them. Gratitude keeps him from saying anything, but he does try to get him to watch his language. They’ve both been in trouble for using racist expressions; that’s not helping to get them taken off the street and made detectives.

After a crook after revenge fires through Denny’s front window leaving his boy baby bleeding to death, his judgement becomes personally not professional driven and a situation develops that could bring an end to both of their careers.

It is the kind of scenario familiar from countless TV police series, though few can have combined news stories of shooting an unarmed black boy, the Jeffrey Dahmer case, institutional racism and dodgy coppers all in the same story. It gets quite melodramatic as the writing moves from what could be verbatim reportage to build to bold theatricality.

The story is told by both policemen, or rather two stories, for we hear it from two viewpoints. The form is intersecting monologues which frequently fuse to become a scene that’s acted out as dialogue. Keith Huff’s writing makes the transitions seamless and the actors make them happen fluidly while concentrating on character and communication.

Vincent Regan is uninhibited as Denny, a would-be alpha male now limping on a damaged leg who inside knows he’s made a mess of things. David Schaal shows Joey weaker and dependent, eventually discovering new confidence. They work splendidly together in a production that concentrates attention on the actors.

To a simple setting, a table and a couple of chairs and a water cooler, that could be a station house interrogation room, designer Ed Ullyart adds a row of back-lit horizontal glazing that sometimes adds emotional colour while above, a letterbox panel of projected film establishes Chicago’s skyscrapers, streets, elevated track, stations, trains and the steady rain of the summer of the action.

The rain, so obviously a symbol, relentless like the no-win situation, does finally fall for real. Here Andrew Pearson’s production seems mistaken. Rather than emphasise the forces and conditions these men have to face that permeate their lives, it becomes a technical distraction. Perhaps it is because the rain pipe needs to be more extensive to make a real effect; perhaps it is because on press night it was periodically producing drips right through the show—but these fine actors were doing a better job without it.

I am not a great aficionado of television police shows and rarely watch them, but this play held me. There is a car chase but, unlike the movies, it doesn’t waste time watching it but concentrates on the people and their predicament.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton