This incredibly glib film noir spoof from Penelope Skinner is definitely the weakest of the three plays in new writing company Paines Plough's Shoreditch Town Hall rep season. Nick Payne's 'One Day When We Were Young' is better constructed and acted; Duncan Macmillan's 'Lungs' is funnier and cleverer and both pack vastly more emotional wallop than 'The Sound of Heavy Rain'.
But I have to say that having seen all three together – as you can do at weekends – Skinner's piece compliments the other two, especially when it plays third in the sequence. Uniting the casts of 'One Day…' and 'Lungs', it has the celebratory feel of an extended encore, and even ends with the four actors – Maia Alexander, Kate O'Flynn, Alistair Cope and Andrew Sheridan – breaking into a heroically crap song and dance routine.
The plot, such as it is, involves Sheridan's rubbish private investigator Dabrowski taking on the first serious case of his career: finding out what happened to improbably named cabaret singer Foxie O'Hara, whose sudden disappearance has left best friend Maggie bereft.
While there is the hint of some serious stuff about subjective reality in there – Dabrowski is an unreliable narrator to say the least – it's basically an excuse for everyone involved to have a good laugh. Skinner gets to lovingly homage the film noirs of Hollywood's golden age, reimagining them as being full of drunk clumsy English people; director James Grieve and his technical team get to have fun with mood lighting, dry ice and rain sound effects; and the cast get to dress up in silly costumes and enjoy a good overact.
If you're going to see just one of the Paines Plough shows, don't make it this one. But if you're seeing all three, 'The Sound of Heavy Rain' makes for a very pleasurable digestif.