Review: Educating Rita

Is it possible to educate someone who isn’t posh? Though the bluntness of the central question of Educating Rita is a little out-dated, the class politics are still very real. Written by Willy Russell and directed by Max Roberts, this adaptation of the 1983 film keeps the story of the boisterous but determined hairdresser Rita (Jessica Johnson) learning English from alcoholic professor Frank (Stephen Tompkinson) to the confines of his study.

In premise, this seems like an ideal stage adaptation; one that can be performed in a single location and yet stretch across both of their very separate lives. Johnson and Tompkinson more than fill the space, their characters bonding and coming to blows, and though neither are immensely likeable they are nevertheless engaging. However, the performance as a whole is stilted and predictable. Not in the sense that the plot and character arcs are obvious, but that there are never any theatrical surprises, nothing that ever justifies the adaptation either in vision or in execution. Without knowing it was an adaptation, it would not take long to guess.

That’s not to say it has been recreated word-for-word to the stage like, say, Rain Man from last year. Adjustments have been made, not least in an effort to remove parts that have not aged well. It is a sleek production too; the stage is compact but with delectable attention to detail. Even so, it feels unnecessary, and though there’s certainly nothing lost in attending the performance, it lacks the necessary spark of inspiration that would make it worth travelling for. Three stars.

Whispers from the Crowd:

I’ve watched it a dozen times, and it is still very moving. Especially that second half.

Yeah, it was a hard act to follow, but it was good. All about inverted snobbery.

I will say the film had a lot more in it that didn’t make the cut here.

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