REVIEW: Educating Rita – Theatr Clwyd
Willy Russel’s masterpiece needs no introduction for those that have seen the original movie, but this production has introduced a whole new audience to the prestigious comedy that is Educating Rita.
In the words of Rita herself ‘Very Good, 10/10’
By Emma Tattum, Egwyl Editor | @emmat1995
Set in the early 1980s, Educating Rita tells the story of married hairdresser Rita who enrols on an Open University course to expand her horizons. Her tutor Frank is a frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker who is less than enthusiastic about taking Rita on as a student, but it soon becomes clear that the two have much to teach each other.
“From a very young age when I read Educating Rita, it gave me permission to aspire, to have the option of a different way of life.” Jessica Johnson
For those familiar with the story and who may have seen the movie, will understand the power that comes with the simplicity and subtlety of the set. The entirety of the production is played out within a lecturers office which is coated with academic references. The tall bookcases, wooden desk and files upon files are all things synonymous with a university office. This is due to the brilliant work of designer, Patrick Connellan.
Stephen Tompkinson plays a self-pitying alcoholic lecturer, Frank. His performance brings out two sides of the character. We see the vulnerable, humorous and caring side that just wants the best for his student, but we also get the arrogant, blunt and abrupt side to Frank.
There’s nothing of him in there, there’s no passion, So, to meet this woman with so much passion, he almost wants to run away. She offers him a little bit of a lifeline, and he’s doing the same for her. Stephen Tompkinson on his character, Frank.
For the audience, they’re a pure a joy to watch as the relationship grows and the true personality of the characters are revealed. It’s evident that he needs her just as much as she needs his help.
Jessica Johnson delivers an animated and dynamic performance as Rita, the quick-witted and very opinionated hairdresser who joins the university to better her life and forget her current circumstances.
Of the two cast members, her character development has the biggest impact and goes from a comedic and lively performance to one that packs a strong punch and at times the poignant moments poke through.
Social and class divide plays an underlying role throughout this production. Rita has a low educational background and Frank is in a strong academic field with a rich background. ‘I don’t have any culture’ Rita says. The two contrasting lives at times are strained, but their parallel lives move closer together as the story winds up.
“It’s definitely a love story, they definitely care for each other, she loves him for giving her the opportunities.” Jessica Johnson
Two cast members, one setting and one unforgettable show!
You can catch Educating Rita at Theatr Clwyd until 1 June. Click here for tickets.