Educating Rita/Malvern Theatres


LET’S face it, the bar was set impossibly high when Julie Walters and Michael Caine turned an already stunning piece of theatre into a classic film.

Well, that self-same bar has now been well and truly turbo propelled into the stratosphere, thanks to Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson, a dream ticket of a double act if ever there was one.

It would be very easy to mistake Willy Russell’s creations as being solely concerned with the working classes, a sort of John Osborne-style kitchen sink approach moved forward several decades.

But Educating Rita defies being placed in convenient pigeon holes. For it is in fact a timeless, life-affirming story about an individual’s personal growth in the face of other people’s determined and ruthless control freakery.

Yes, Rita’s husband is a down-the-pub, ‘her indoors’ type of husband, the kind that can be seen on any Sunday lunchtime necking the pints down at the Rat and Ferret before staggering home to his roast beef and Yorkshire pud.

But this is not just a class thing. Rita is the species of caged bird that can be observed in any social grouping, bitterly resented by their partner for having the gall for wanting to be something more than just an appendage to another person.

Thankfully, our heroine steadily grows, blossoms and finally bursts into full, magnificent bloom… only to find that tutor Frank now also appears to have lost sight of the fact that his student has broken her chains and is now a free person in her own, unassailable right.

Russell’s play about the indomitability of the human spirit challenging greyness of aspiration and winning through against the cultural odds is as relevant today as it was when first written.

Educating Rita is utterly captivating, brilliantly performed and is therefore most definitely a must-see. It runs until Saturday (August 10).

John Phillpott