Educating Rita

Date 20th November 2021
Society Matchbox Theatre Company
Venue Washington Arts Centre
Type of Production Play
Director Michelle Coulson

Report

Author: Helen Abraham

We opened in the Washinton Arts Centre to a fixed set described as a first floor room in a university in the north of England in the early 1980s.  The set was incredibly detailed with an array or books, academic texts (hiding Frank’s alcohol stash), various chairs and personal items making the scenery so much more believable.

Educating Rita is a two hand play so the pressure is seriously on for these performers.  Tom Casling took on the characterisation of Frank and Lucy McCabe portrayed Rita.  Both are almost on stage continuously throughout so it really is a tough one for them to take on.  Michelle Coulson directed the play and as always did a sterling job.

Lucy was absolutely marvellous, especially for someone so young!  I genuinely thought she must be scouse as her accent did not even remotely waver throughout.  She was strong and yet vulnerable at the same time and portrayed Rita beautifully as the scouse hairdresser looking to better her life and widen her horizons by way of an Open University course in English Literature taught by Frank.  Lucy’s journey is followed and is guided by and conflicts with the tuition and friendship with Frank in her self-discovery and betterment of her horizons.  Lucy showed us Rita’s journey superbly, also demonstrated by the gradual changes in her dress and demeanour.

Tom Casling I admire and respect so much in any event as a playwright but was introduced to his skills as an actor with this performance.  He portrayed Frank’s battle with alcoholism with skill and care, his cynicism and bitterness towards the university lifestyle and the growing friendship and respect he has for Rita as she develops.  Really well done Tom, we empathised with Frank somewhat in your portrayal whereas other versions I’ve seen appeared to seek to make Frank quite hostile.  I liked Tom’s softer approach to Frank’s character personally.

Together they made a formidable team.  Their delivery was sincere and conversational, not recited and their characters complimented their polar opposites perfectly.  They were able to show the differences in their socio-economic backgrounds which at the start are polar opposite then as they continue their journey, they merge and blur.

I thoroughly enjoyed this play so a huge thank you to all involved.  It had such an authentic and genuine feel to it – even down to the telephone being plugged in and the book collection!  Really well done to all concerned.