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Review: Educating Rita
Theatre Royal Bath
Until June 9
LIKE some classes back in your schooldays, audience members should ‘stick at it’ with this slow-burning production.
At times the first act was like an endless episode of Brookside, starring Claire Sweeney, from which there was no escape.
Only the endless supply of fantastic double entendres kept one going.
The miscommunication between Sweeney’s Rita and Matthew Kelly’s Frank was most interesting. They are worlds apart, from very different social backgrounds, but circumstance draws them together.
Willy Russell’s classic play tells a moving story of Rita seeking university professor Frank’s help with her studies, developing a special friendship but one that is very much entrenched in their situation. And when she ‘flies the nest’, passing her exams in a blaze of colour, Frank is left redundant.
We see a turning point in the second act which undoubtedly resonates with parents, teachers and anyone who has had to let someone go.
There is a role reversal as Frank becomes more bitter and angry with Rita’s every new book, every new friend. He can’t accept that Rita has changed - yet it is all because of his good work.
Kelly put in a strong and carefully measured performance throughout while Sweeney enjoyed a much-improved, dynamic second half, where for the first time the performance felt heartfelt.
This production, from the Theatre Royal Bath’s production arm, is a job well done - and as for Russell’s play itself, it is one that leaves audiences contemplating its deeper, underlying message for quite some time after the final curtain.