The Theatreguide.London Review
(The transfer and revival had cast changes.)
29-year-old hairdresser, vaguely hoping that there has to be more to
life than gossip, pop music and making babies, enrols in an Open
University course in the quaint faith that learning to write critical
essays about literature will feed the shameful (because not shared by
her friends and family) hunger she feels.
drunken wash-out himself, falls in love with the vitality and freshness
in her spirit, and fears that giving her the academic skills she wants
will destroy all that is unique and special about her.
wrong, as it
turns out, and although happiness and fulfilment don't lie exactly
where she thought they would, she has chosen the right path for her to
Rita is another of Willy Russell's delightful celebrations of a working
class woman's emancipation from the constraints of her limited world,
and a warm and happy experience for the audience.
production Larry Lamb does much to flesh out the tutor and give him an
emotional reality, the character is really just a feed and straight man
to Rita, and Lamb's is a very generous performance, never stealing the
spotlight from where it belongs.
is the actress's play - thirty years ago it made a star out of Julie
Walters (who, of course, like all overnight stars, had been acting for
over a decade, making herself ready for the moment lightning struck).
captures all of the vitality, humour, undeniable intelligence and raw
energy of the character, particularly in the earlier scenes, though
she's a little less successful in hanging on to those qualities as Rita
'matures' and becomes more serious, so that you may leave the show
fearing that the tutor's fears were justified, and something was lost
in the woman as she mastered academic jargon.
first few performances director Jeremy Sams will guide the young
actress toward finding a way to hang on to all that is special about
Rita even as the character develops.
even with that
one reservation, Educating Rita remains a thoroughly delightful,
frequently very touching, and ultimately very life-affirming theatrical
Rita is being offered in rep with Russell's Shirley
Valentine, with a different cast and director - evidently the
first time anyone has ever thought to do that.
complement each other nicely, as both are about women finding an
unexpected path to richer and happier lives, and both are done so well
here that it would be difficult to recommend one over the other.
both - check
with the theatre for the performance schedule - and get a
dose of Willy Russell's life-affirming elixir.
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Educating Rita - Menier 2010