Review: Educating Rita, Menier Chocolate Factory

My original review was a lot more detailed but disappeared somewhere into the internet and I’m meant to be working, so here’s a brief recap.

“Sod them Rita, sod them”

I think I got Willy Russelled out on Saturday. After Shirley in the afternoon with a varied sampling of the blogging cognoscenti, I returned in the evening with a different companion for Educating Rita. And whilst she loved it, I was not a fan. This version has more in common with the radio play which was broadcast on Radio 4 on Boxing Day than the famous film. Laura Dos Santos reprises her role from the radio, but Bill Nighy has been replaced by Larry Lamb.

Rita, a 29 year-old hairdresser decides she needs an education and enrols at an Open University course where her tutor, Frank, is a disillusioned middle-aged ex-poet with an indiscriminate liking for whiskey. Over the course of a year, they affect each other in a number of ways, as Rita seeks to better herself and Frank tries to battle his own personal demons. In the attractively designed office set, their relationship is charted but something just didn’t click for me. I didn’t care much for Larry Lamb’s grizzled Frank (as I’m not a watcher of Eastenders or Gavin & Stacey, I wasn’t aware of him before now) although Laura Dos Santos’ Rita was very funny and warm.

Having seen both plays in the same day meant that I was constantly drawing comparisons, perhaps where they weren’t warranted, but I did feel that Shirley Valentine has stood the test of time much better. The issues of class and education that form the centre of Educating Rita did feel somewhat dated, in a way in which Shirley’s more human concerns did not. But perhaps the lesson to be learned is not to book two plays for the same day!

Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: £2

5 thoughts on “Review: Educating Rita, Menier Chocolate Factory

  1. Yes, I suspect I will definitely be in the minority here. If I were richer, I'd contemplate going again with a clear mind, to reassess it.

  2. I don't think you're meant to 'like' Frank – and I think one of the failings of the movie is that Michael Caine made him too loveable (in the same way he pisses over the ensemble in almost any film in which he appears) whereas I think you're meant to pity him.

    I disagree (slightly) about the quality of the two pieces in the 'Willy Russell Season' – I thought Rita was much superior to Shirley: Meera Syal didn't capture her as neatly as I hoped and expected she would, and I was very disappointed they didn't attempt to play her as an Indian housewife, where the domineering husband/dutiful wife might have been even more resonant, and the liberation even more triumphant.

  3. Interesting, though I suppose the fear would be that making Shirley Indian would make it seem less universal.
    Which reminds me of a shocking question asked in the programme by Michael Coveney where he asks if there's any 'significance' to the casting of Syal and Dos Santos: I think the dirty foreigners bit must have been implied!!

  4. it was brilliant.Touching and as much about Larry Lamb's Frank as Laura Dos Santos' Rita.
    This writing will never date.Nor will it's subject mtter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *