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Educating Rita

Dougal Lee and Samantha Robinson in Educating Rita. Photo: Robert Day Dougal Lee and Samantha Robinson in Educating Rita. Photo: Robert Day
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Celebrating the 35th anniversary of renowned writer Willy Russell’s comic British classic, Director Patrick Sandford presents this stripped-back original two-hander production of Educating Rita, a story that hasn’t aged one bit.

Juliet Shillingford’s painstakingly constructed study set is detailed beyond measure. Masquerading as a striking shrine to the literary greats, from Shakespeare to Forster and Bronte, it’s organised chaos, stocked floor to ceiling with everything from iconic literature, to artwork and artefacts. As Rita aptly states: “How do you make a room like this?”

A role Julie Walters made famous in both the highly acclaimed 1980 West End production and 1983 BAFTA-winning screenplay, it’s evident that Samantha Robinson, a genuine Liverpudlian, was destined to depict headstrong hairdresser Rita.

Having worked under Sandford previously in the tragedy The House of Barnarda Alba, passionate Robinson here portrays a Rita that many can identify with. The actor is an exuberant whirlwind from the moment she barges through the study door – an exhausting initial display – pacing around to reflect Rita’s desperate hunger for knowledge.

As Rita grows in independence, ambition and wisdom, Robinson gradually shifts gear with smooth transition, as her commendable performance prompts a genuine sense of pride.

Perfecting that middle-aged, stuffy university academic, Dougal Lee’s jaded and alcohol-dependent Frank Bryant has an authentic sense of treading water. Even his office replicates the disorder in his troubled life. An ideal foil for Robinson’s Rita, Bryant’s drunken outbursts will leave you questioning what was really in those bottles.

Dates: February 26-March 14, PN February 27

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Feel-good, humorous Mercury production, proving that while decades may have passed, Russell’s themes still resonate with many today