The Reviews Are In For Educating Rita
Last night, we held a press night for Willy Russell's critically acclaimed comedy, Educating Rita.
Both press and audiences absolutely loved the show describing it as a mixture of hilarious comedy with moments that will touch your hearts.
Here is a review from last night written by one of our invited guests, Encore Reviews.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars
Here is a play written in 1980 by one of our greatest playwrights, Willy Russell, which highlights the disparity between class, sex and education, in particular the struggle which working class women faced when seeking to expand their horizons and improve themselves intellectually. But would this still work, 40 years on? I wanted to find out so, having never seen the play before or the award-winning film, I was able to sit back and watch with no preconceived ideas.
Educating Rita follows the journey of a married hairdresser, who enrols on an Open University course to escape from her boring and un-cultured existence, and her encounters with university tutor Frank. Frank is a dis-illusioned poet and academic who is, more often than not, found with an alcoholic drink in his hand. He is not particularly enamoured about teaching Rita; however, he soon finds that his passion for literature is reignited by her. Rita’s ability for the subject is limited by her lack of education, but her enthusiasm is refreshingly endearing to him, and he finds himself nurturing and encouraging her, bringing with it its own set of problems. Thoughts of Henry Higgins and his Eliza Doolittle transformation spring to mind!
Stephen Tompkinson is perfectly cast as the dishevelled alcoholic lecturer who it seems is only in it for the money. His differing degrees of inebriation were acted with greatly subtlety and without any sign of over-exaggeration. I definitely felt more invested in Stephen’s performance and the journey which Frank went on. As Rita, Jessica Johnson started with a questionable Liverpudlian accent (I had a Liverpudlian grandmother), however her comedic timing was particularly good. As her journey through literary enlightenment progressed, her accent softened, and her performance became more convincing. While there is obvious affection between Frank and Rita, their chemistry seems to be more on an intellectual level rather than sexual, perhaps due to the socially distanced staging still in place.
The set is predictable yet functional, allowing it not to detract from the real focus which is the developing relationship between the characters, and the scene changes were minimal and seamless, supported by effective musical interludes and atmospheric lighting.
So, having experienced Educating Rita for the first time, the answer to my question is yes, this play is still relevant today, especially with some adaptations to the script by Russell himself, to make it more au fait with our modern world. Willy’s one liners are second to none and make you laugh out loud. A thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable production.
Educating Rita continues at MAST Mayflower Studios in Southampton till Saturday 24th July.
Don't miss out on seeing Educating Rita before it leaves Southampton after Saturday.