Educating Rita is the brand new production showing at the Queens Theatre in Hornchuch. It was last shown at the Queens theatre in 2004.
A classic film from 1983 starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine adapted for theatrical use. It was not going to be easy to fill the boots of such iconic stars. Rita was played by Danielle Flett. It was a real pleasure to see that while Rita looked and sounded completely different from the film she took the character to another level. She was bursting with her unique spin on Rita, I loved the energy she demonstrated fighting her personal cause. She was captivating to watch. Dressed to kill and sounding every bit like a working class lass in need of some education.
Frank (Ruairi Conaghan) delivered a magnificent contribution to the production. He was witty and showed a great interest in his subject, Rita. His character was clearly facing personal imbalances of which he found an awakening in her presence. He could be found tucked away in his safe haven, his study drinking often as he accepted his poetry writing career was over.
‘Schools out’ for most by the time they reach 26 but not Rita. She had a feeling something was missing from her life. She had the husband and a decent job but she had reached a point when she wanted more even if this meant going back to study. This was where she clicked instantly with her tutor of whom she became quickly fond of.
He was wise but cynical and seemed to be missing something from his own life too. He was constantly seeking comfort in the bottle. However once she came looking for his assistance in her quest to find herself he became curious. He began to doubt how he could make such a transformation. It soon became clear she was going to require an awful lot of work.
In their own unique way they both gave each what was missing from their own lives in a purely platonic way. As the plot unfolded Rita grew wings and flew in her dedication for her quest to discover herself and her capabilities far exceeded any ones expectations. This was detrimental to Frank as he regarded her as “a breath of fresh air in his office” but she was changing into a member of a social clique he was familiar with. He soon it wasn’t that she was going to be so much of a challenge, more that he liked her just the way she was. He didn’t want to change her.
Educating Rita begs you to consider what is culture, and asks you to question social values and norms. It opens up a bag of worms on the subject of how things have changed your life for the better or indeed the worse.
Music from the 80’s was used to fill costume changes which was also refreshing from dialogue.
I loved the set, designed to look like an old university room, timeless, without seeing any dust I could feel the age of the room from my seat which was a great addition to the feel of the set. So many scattered books I felt like I wanted to sit by the lamp and pick one up.
I really enjoyed listening to Frank and Rita to see how their would chemistry unfold. It was the subtly funny and enormously touching. I could understand her need for personal growth but could also appreciate her current qualities.
There are more and more mature people returning to learning than ever before, wanting better lives for themselves. This show is an inspiration to anyone questioning is their more to life.
Tonight’s homework check out Educating Rita, totally inspiring.
By Annette Gregory
The production is showing until 13th May. Contact the theatre direct www.queens-theatre.co.uk