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Review: Educating Rita, Mercury Theatre, Colchester!

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Review: Educating Rita, Mercury Theatre, Colchester!

Daisy Jones reviews Educating Rita – at Mercury Theatre in Colchester until March 14

We’ve all seen the movie: the story of a young working class woman gaining an education, with a young Michael Caine and a very young Julie Waters. But Willy Russell’s funny, powerful, and often touching script was originally written for the stage – and at the Mercury theatre, you can see it the way it was meant to be, on its 35th anniversary. Just two brilliant actors with this one brilliant script.

No one’s sitting properly here

The first thing you notice about this production is the brilliant design. Every scene takes place in university tutor Frank’s office, and the design team have outdone themselves, creating a stunning set that brings the world of the play to life. Teamed with a soundtrack of Eighties music, it’s the perfect backdrop to watch the relationship between the two characters change.

Frank’s office is filled with books – and bottles, hidden amongst them

Samantha Robinson and Dougal Lee do a fantastic job of it. Sometimes they’re laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes they’re tear-jerkingly moving, but the one thing they never are is boring. The energy level is consistently high, and for two hours you’ll want to look nowhere else. Their on-stage dynamic is enthralling.
Robinson portrays Rita’s passion to learn and desire for a different life with an underlying vulnerability – and Lee allows us to see the vulnerability in Frank, too. As he lurches between broken down relationships and increasingly drunken lectures, his anger and frustration comes out more and more. Both performances run parallel, showing two characters trapped in their daily lives.

I really don’t like your jacket

By the end of the play a year has passed – the passage of time marked with falling leaves, snow, and a blazing summer sun – and you really feel as though you’ve gone on a journey with these two characters. Utterly watchable, this production proves that Educating Rita is just as funny, heart-warming and entertaining as it was when it was first written 35 years ago.

Educating Rita runs until March 14, so make sure you don’t miss this modern classic – book your tickets now!

Photography: Robert Day


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