Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Nico Rao Pimparé: Rainer

By | Published on Friday 27 May 2022

This week sees the return to Arcola Theatre’s Outside Space of award winning one woman show ‘Rainer’, following a short but critically acclaimed run at the venue in 2021. 

The play – written by Max Wilkinson and directed by Nico Rao Pimparé – stars Sorcha Kennedy in the title role: she plays Rainer, a delivery driver, and the play explores her life and relationships against the backdrop of gig-economy London. 

The creative team involved in this production is just bursting with talent, and I wanted to find out more about the play and about them. So I arranged a chat one of those talents – the show’s director Nico Rao Pimparé. 

CM: Can you start by telling us what ‘Rainer’ is all about? What’s the story and where does the narrative take us?
NRP: Rainer is a one-woman play about a delivery rider called Rainer, played by the brilliant Sorcha Kennedy. It tracks her as she delivers dim-sums, limes, and scotch eggs across London, travelling from the grimiest streets to the most exclusive parties.

But really, the story focuses on Rainer’s emotional journey and love life, on her relationship with her family, her employer – the aptly named Angel Deliveries company – and her therapist. As she rides through the streets, her frenzied journey is one of guilt and pain, but also of anarchic and unhinged comedy.

CM: What themes are explored through the play?
NRP: It’s the story of someone going through an intense personal crisis, over the very real backdrop of London as it truly is for most struggling Millenials.

The play is about delivery riders, it’s about the gig economy, it’s about the feeling of loneliness and helplessness that comes from living with little direction, under the poverty line, in a city that is geared towards wealth and career success.

And yet Rainer’s inquisitiveness and her satirical outlook on life paint a wildly funny and moving picture of London. She won’t tell you what to think. She’ll just tell it to you the way she sees it.

CM: What made you want to work on the play? What do you love about it?
NRP: This story is a genuine and honest representation of the life that I, and many of my generation, know very well, but rarely see depicted in culture – if at all.

For many years, I lived under the poverty line – currently set at £276/week in London. I’ve called squats a home and eaten out of bins. I know many people who have as well. From all walks of life – graduates, artists, immigrants. All these people struggled to make ends meet, but they had to live in this city, and they came to love it. 

The mentality and outlook on life that comes with that kind of subsistence living is difficult to explain, and Max Wilkinson, the author of ‘Rainer’, captures it brilliantly.

It’s not romantic, it’s not fun, it is what it is. And Max has an incisive, poetic and witty approach to text, which he’s infused the character of Rainer with. The play is as funny as it is dramatic, all the while capturing and celebrating this particular mode of life – that’s what I love about it.

CM: Can you tell us a bit more about Max and how the play came about?
NRP: Max is a Londoner born and bred. He’s probably cycled down every street in London. For him, this play is a love letter to London, and it comes from a place of truth.

Max initially approached me with a film version of ‘Rainer’, as I also direct film projects. He’d already workshopped this idea quite a bit, I think. There was also a shorter play version of ‘Rainer’ which had caught the attention of the Arcola.

Eventually the project reached maturity in its current full length play version, which we first staged as a work-in-progress version for a one-week run last October at the Arcola. The great reviews and audience feedback encouraged us to go back to the same venue for this full length run!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Sorcha Kennedy, who performs the play?
NRP: Sorcha was involved for the work-in-progress version, and she made it what it is. Luckily, we found dates that worked for her, and she was up for working with me again!

She has an infectious energy and phenomenal stage presence. It takes someone with courage and panache to go on a stage, alone, for 75 minutes. She has that capacity to take you on an epic journey through London and paint this picture of the city and the people that live inside it.

She depicts, I think, 37 characters? I can’t even remember how many, to be honest. And she has a control and precision in her characterisations, accents and voices that makes them all unique and specific.

CM: What’s it like directing just one person? How different is it from directing a full cast?
NRP: It’s pretty full on! In many ways, it’s more intense, because she’s always keeping me on my toes! There’s no one else in the rehearsal room who can pick up the energy.

This is my second monologue play, after ‘Candy’ – with Mike Waller, at the King’s Head – and it’s been a really interesting terrain to explore. It’s a different mode of story telling. It leaves more to the imagination, and is more about the relationship between the performer and the audience.

It’s more daunting for the actor, but also weirdly rewarding. 

CM: Can we talk about you and your history now? How did you come to be pursuing a career in the arts? What made you want to do it and how did it all begin? Did you always want to work in this area?
NRP: I actually came to London to study Physics at Imperial College, where I got my master’s degree in 2014. But I knew I wanted to work in theatre – during my entire degree I was involved with the dramsoc there.

When I finished, I couldn’t afford to go to drama school, so I started off as a actor – learning on the job. A few years later, I got up the courage to direct my first play ‘Dead Souls’, which led to many more directing jobs, and more recently my first short film ‘The Start Of Nothing’.

I still act often and I enjoy it a lot, but directing is where my true passion lies.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
NRP: My last play, ‘Diary Of A Somebody’, received a five star review in The Guardian, amongst many other good notices. It sold out for its six week run at The Seven Dials Playhouse, in the West End. It was very meaningful to have my work seen and discussed by so many people.

And it was very gratifying – and very rewarding –  for the cast and crew who had all worked so hard to make it happen. It’s nice when the work gives something back to the team. And I still have a special place in my heart for my first play, ‘Dead Souls’.

CM: What’s coming up for you next after this?
NRP: My next play is the revival of ‘Candy’ by Tim Fraser, starring my good friend Mike Waller. It will be at the Underbelly in Edinburgh from 5 to 29 Aug. I also have a feature film in development with the BFI, and am working on a few new projects. You can also catch me acting in Britbox’s ‘Murder In Provence’ and upcoming Disney+ Series ‘Wedding Season’.

‘Rainer’ is on at Arcola Outside from 1-18 Jun. For more information and to book your tickets, head to the venue website here.

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