Arcola Theatre, Dalston


Bicycle delivery rider Rainer’s second outing at the Arcola sees her moving through the gears in a freewheeling tale about the shadowy existence of a key worker struggling to survive in the fast lane of London life.

Performed with raw charm by Sorcha Kennedy, who conjures multiple characters, and staged in the Arcola’s spit-and-sawdust outdoor space, Max Wilkinson's frenetic monologue is an ode to the city's glitz and grit - from its luxury flats to neglected estates. The writing is a tour-de-force of wonder, warmth and jaw-dropping satire, woven together by an irascible, unreliable narrator suffering from depression.

What could possibly go wrong? The story starts during the post-lockdown Summer of Love. Cash-strapped Rainer zips about on Jean Rhys - her bike is named after her favourite writer - frantically doing drop offs. Customers include her censorious city-banker brother, a bored couple watching Bake Off who invite her in for a threesome, and her boss who demands a sandwich delivered to the dance floor.

This is consumerism and instant gratification gone stratospheric. Mistaken for a clubber dressed in service chic, her boss damns the fantasy, ‘she’s no one’ he proclaims. So Rainer flirts with jumping off Battersea Bridge when gentle Jack, the man she falls in love with, stops her. Or does he ? Does he even exist? Scenes with her distracted Eastern European therapist are particularly strong as Kennedy mines the comic potential and builds up the character who proves instrumental in ensuring Rainer confronts the painful truth behind her father’s tragic death.

Wilkinson’s writing is particularly sharp when satirizing the uber-privileged, but is less convincing with the working class. Rainer’s mum presented as a scrabble-playing agoraphobic in Bow doesn’t quite tally with a protagonist who references Baudelaire, Alain Delon and attends snooty private views (though the Austrian publisher pied with a goat’s cheese canapé is a pleasing moment).

Director Nico Rao Pimpare ensures a relentless pace and with an inspired soundtrack by Jethro Cooke and strobe lighting that reflects shifting emotions, the production pulses continuously.

Rainer runs until June 18 at Arcola Outside in Dalston. https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/rainer-2/