Educating Rita

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Story by John Snelson

Just been to see “Educating Rita” in an update production at The Ensemble Theatre here in Kirribilli, Sydney.

crop-rita-673x384The Ensemble is Australia’s longest, continuously running professional theatre company; it’s in the round, small and intimate – so perfectly positioned for this great two-actor play that takes place in the office of Frank, a rather boozy, frustrated university lecturer.  Frank is lovable, yet warn down by “the system”, feeling failed, unfulfilled and a factotum of the tertiary factory.

Being a Scouse myself, Willy Russell is a fave playwriter of mine – and I do like this story, set in working class Liverpool.  Willy Russell’s work also includes “Blood Brothers” and “Shirley Valentine“.

In trying to sum up the story without trivialising the themes, I think it is about the urge within us all to improve our lot, in the belief that we can make life better for ourselves.

It is not without it’s sadness though – so it is a bittersweet comedy in many respects.  On the one hand we have the rather greyed character of Frank the lecturer and on the other, the effervescent and voluble, ball of energy that is Rita – she has a vivacity and naive belief and hunger … she is working as a hair dresser but yearns for some smarts and is determined to get them through a relentless series of questions, a bit of study and a belief that Frank can help her to become “educated dead quick like” in the Scouse vernacular.

Frank’s lack of energy, his resignation to a continuing dreary life without spark or self achievement does not totally hide some potential if only it could be awakened.  His evident sharp wit and latent creativity has been blunted by the dreary dross of the lower levels of tertiary education.

Rita brings challenges and the awakening of choices for both of them.  Frank is played by director Mark Kilmurry and Rita by Catherine McGraffin.  Tops.

Get along to see “Educating Rita” at The Ensemble … there are a few tickets left and it is showing until the end of June.

Score 5/5