The Mill at Sonning - Educating Rita
22nd January to 21st March 2015.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Sparks fly at The Mill
Three curtain-calls for Willie Russell's Educating Rita at Sonning
Educating Rita, at The Mill at Sonning, until March 21
Willie Russell's play about a young hairdresser taking an open university course with a rather world-weary university lecturer was first produced at The Warehouse, London, in June 1980. The film version featured Michael Caine and Julie Walters. This new production at The Mill sparkled with the almost instant rapport, achieved by Stuart Fox as Frank and Laura Doddington as Rita.
The play, sometimes described as a Pygmalian-style plot, charts the progress, in continuous scenes, of the young woman seeking a full education with Frank, a lecturer who has been in his present job for far too long and has become cynical and sarcastic. It is soon apparent, however, that the extrovert, loud-mouthed young woman in his office has connected unexpectedly with the heavy-drinking, disillusioned teacher and the two ignite sparks in each other. The two actors bonded together extremely well and were totally convincing in their parts.
Robin Herford's direction was smooth and unobtrusive, ensuring that the play moved along briskly and naturally.
With only two actors on stage for the best part of two hours, there was a lot of hard work to get through, but these two held the attention and produced the laughs with consummate ease.
Laura Doddington was very impressive as Rita; her movement, expressions, voice and, in the first act, rather tarty clothing, were all done to perfection.
And the change, in act two, as she becomes more confident and assured, without losing any of her native exuberance, was extremely well done. Just noting her expressions as she watched Frank open a present was a lesson in complete character study.
Stuart Fox played Frank as a rather crumpled, disillusioned, old-style lecturer and locked in seamlessly with Ms Doddington throughout.
Perhaps a touch of weary intellectual snobbishness and blustery sarcasm would have added to his interpretation, but overall these performances were so good and the production as a whole so engrossing that the audience called the actors back for three curtain calls.