Writer: Willy Russell
Director: Tamara Harvey
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
The Public Reviews Rating:
A brilliantly-written play that makes an unlikely couple of a Scouse hairdresser and a University Lecturer, Educating Rita is a piece that maintains its popularity by being funny, engaging and accessible. In an attempt to improve her life Rita enrols in an English Lit course via Open University, and is allocated alcoholic book-smart Frank as a tutor.
After an initial clash over their obvious differences, Frank is intrigued by Rita’s genuine thirst for knowledge and naïve reactions, and her personal and educational development leaves him questioning his own work and knowledge. Both witty and poignant, Willy Russell’s two-hander has been ably directed by Tamara Harvey, with Frank’s office dominated by books, hidden booze, and a huge set of windows. Stuck in a rut and liable to drink himself into an early grave, his interest is peaked when Claire Sweeney’s Rita knocks (repeatedly) at his door.
The two actors have a nice rapport, and the comic moments are expertly delivered, however in the more highly emotional moments both seemed to raise their volume rather than intensity. There are altogether far more costume changes for Sweeney than are necessary, however her performance was strong and the vocal affectation she gained as Rita became more educated was well observed and executed. Matthew Kelly gives a star turn as Frank, who we can see is like a caged animal, playing both ends of the scale as pompous intellectual and rambling drunk. In the end, Frank is far more dependant on Rita than she is on him, and Kelly had a lovely begrudging vulnerability that made the character both likeable and infuriating. A fantastic play that has been well staged, thoughtfully designed and is well acted throughout.
Until 27th August
Edinburgh Fringe: Educating Rita – Assembly George Square,