“I’ve been realizin’ for ages that I was, y’ know, slightly out of step. I’m twenty-six. I should have had a baby by now; everyone expects it. I’m sure me husband thinks I’m sterile. He was moanin’ all the time, y’ know, ‘Come off the pill, let’s have a baby.’ I told him I’d come off it, just to shut him up. But I’m still on it. See, I don’t wanna baby yet. I wanna discover myself first. Do you understand that?”
Set in Willy Russell’s hometown of Liverpool, this Laurence Olivier Award winning play follows the story of Rita, a 29 year-old hairdresser who has started an English course on the Open University. In order to achieve this, she is given the begrudging, alcoholic personal tutor of Frank, who, after being charmed by her unabashed honesty, genuineness, and foul language, starts to try and help her get to grips with the academic world. The plot is a brilliant, engaging tale of a young woman finding her way through a culture that seemed before an impossibility, and the man trying to help her realising that perhaps our education system is rewarding the wrong things. “Educating Rita,” is a fantastically funny story that will leave you postulating upon your own education, and the class system in Britain today.
We really can’t tell you anymore on the plot than that. We would be spoiling it for you.
This production of the play is gut-wrenchingly beautiful. The stage itself is a book-worm’s dream. Thousands and thousands of old, leather bound books (enough to make Ron Burgundy jealous) are placed in little nooks in the bookshelves, with great literary geniuses hiding Frank’s beloved booze collection. The armchair and footstool in the centre are dark burgundy leather, the desk to the right as if it were made of old mahogany with books and essays spilling over the edge. If you were on stage, you could probably smell the studiousness emanating from the set. It is perfectly designed for the play; it draws you in and sets the scene brilliantly.
photo by Stephen Vaughan
The acting. Oh my, the acting. Where to start? Both actors hail from Liverpool, with Leanne Best and Con O’Neill both returning back to the city that started their acting careers. The chemistry and dynamics between these two are so electrifying, that eels should be studying it in order to improve their technique. Leanne’s Rita is a ditsy, fast-paced, fast mouthed Liverpudlian with outfits as sharp as her tongue. She pulls off the character perfectly, and adds a new dimension to Rita that allows the audience to really engage and empathise with her. You are literally astounded by her. Con O’Neill’s Frank is a bored, lethargic academic who suddenly is brought to life by Rita. It is bubbly, vivacious, exciting and enthralling. His portrayal of Frank is second-to-none, even usurping Michael Cain’s attempt in the 1983 film.
Sorry Michael, but you have to give credit where credit is due.
Please stop looking at us like that.
This production, directed by Gemma Bodinetz is genuine, beautiful and heartbreaking. It is outstanding, and still poignant today. On a cold Tuesday night, this production warmed us to our very core, to the point that we thought we may have melted, as we were glued to our seats. That is just how brilliant this play is. This production of Willy Russell’s classic is proving that even after all this time, “Educating Rita,” can still engage a modern audience and move them. If you haven’t seen this play, if you have and think that a new different production will just be the same, or even if you’re just bored at some point in the next few weeks we implore you to watch this. Your heart and mind will thank you. Also, if you were the person that created the playlist of 70’s/80’s music that played before the play started, the selection was excellent. We would definitely like a copy please.
Tickets are very scarce for Educating Rita at the moment but we’ve managed to get 50 of them for a special deal on the 23rd of February. A ticket would usually cost £14 and a glass of wine or a beer would be a further £4 but we’ve managed to get both for just £12! Get them here.
Educating Rita is showing at the Playhouse in Liverpool until Saturday the 7th of March.