“I’ve been realising for ages that I was out of step”
“Possessing a hungry mind is not in itself a guarantee of success”
Every five or ten minutes the play races onto the next scene and we’re back in the office to get feedback on Rita’s latest essay. While she wants to learn, can she be taught? Will her husband give her the space to change? And will Frank ever return to his poetry?
After the interval the play accelerates towards its conclusion, with major changes affecting the lives of each character. The bookcases’ own special effect is another symbolic reminder of what’s going on inside Frank’s world. There’s a level of attention to detail across the whole production, down to sound designer Philip Stewart’s miccing of the manual typewriter, the radio clips used to anchor the action in 1980/1, and the meaningful selection of music to introduce each scene.
On Wednesday night the audience gleefully applauded each scene change as well as a number of set piece speeches within the play. Somehow Frank’s descent in melancholy doesn’t earn the full sympathy of the audience and the final scene lacks the assurance of the rest of the play.
In moving Educating Rita away from its Liverpool roots and getting Oisin Kearney to Belfastise Willy Russell’s original script, the Lyric took a risk. But it’s a risk that paid off for director Emma Jordan with a performance that entertains as well as examines the choices that education offers.
Educating Rita runs in the Lyric Theatre eight times a week until 5 March and is well worth catching.
Production shots by Stephan Hill