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Educating Rita

By Willy Russell

Library Theatre Company

The Lowry, 27 September 2013

Philip Bretherton (Frank) and Gillian Kearney (Rita) in the Library Theatre Company production of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita.   Photo by Jonathan Keenan.

Philip Bretherton (Frank) and Gillian Kearney (Rita) in the Library Theatre Company production of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita. Photo by Jonathan Keenan.

She is looking for meaning in all the wrong places.

Russell’s play charts a series of meetings, tutorials they’re meant to be, between Rita (Gillian Kearney) and her Open University tutor Frank (Philip Bretherton).  Rita is a hairdresser and she’s sick of asking, ‘So, where are you going on holiday this year?’  She wants out; she wants an education.

What makes the play work still, a little less than a quarter of a century after it was first produced, is the salty humour and the deft care with which it depicts the ups and downs of Frank and Rita’s relationship.  Its stance towards education is also more ambivalent than appears at first sight.  Yes, Rita does obtain an education and some measure of freedom but something else, Russell intimates, something you might call honesty or authenticity, may well have been lost.

It has a few flaws.  There were asides at the start when Frank searched for his stash of whiskey, but these petered out.  Better not to have begun.  And Rita’s polemics about the travails of the working class lot feel now like padding as well as preaching.

Educating Rita is at The Lowry until 12 October, further details can be found here.

And some background to the production, including an interview with director Chris Honer, are here.

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