Review: Educating Rita, Menier Chocolate Factory

My original review was a lot more detailed but disappeared somewhere into the internet and I’m meant to be working, so here’s a brief recap.

“Sod them Rita, sod them”

I think I got Willy Russelled out on Saturday. After Shirley in the afternoon with a varied sampling of the blogging cognoscenti, I returned in the evening with a different companion for Educating Rita. And whilst she loved it, I was not a fan. This version has more in common with the radio play which was broadcast on Radio 4 on Boxing Day than the famous film. Laura Dos Santos reprises her role from the radio, but Bill Nighy has been replaced by Larry Lamb. 

Rita, a 29 year-old hairdresser decides she needs an education and enrols at an Open University course where her tutor, Frank, is a disillusioned middle-aged ex-poet with an indiscriminate liking for whiskey. Over the course of a year, they affect each other in a number of ways, as Rita seeks to better herself and Frank tries to battle his own personal demons. In the attractively designed office set, their relationship is charted but something just didn't click for me. I didn’t care much for Larry Lamb’s grizzled Frank (as I’m not a watcher of Eastenders or Gavin & Stacey, I wasn’t aware of him before now) although Laura Dos Santos’ Rita was very funny and warm. 

Having seen both plays in the same day meant that I was constantly drawing comparisons, perhaps where they weren’t warranted, but I did feel that Shirley Valentine has stood the test of time much better. The issues of class and education that form the centre of Educating Rita did feel somewhat dated, in a way in which Shirley’s more human concerns did not. But perhaps the lesson to be learned is not to book two plays for the same day!

Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: £2

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