Willy Russell’s Educating Rita is a story about a girl from Liverpool who enrols in an open university course with a nihilistic and hedonistic tutor. Rita (Jessica Johnson) who came from a restrictive learning background wants to learn critical thinking and to change herself and her life through learning. She tries to find common ground and a genuine connection with her tutor as she emulates his identity of a Scholar and intellectual. She tries to find purpose, an appreciation for life and to change her culture, lifestyle and identity to something greater. Rita moves her apartment, changes her company to university students, changes her job and identity to lead a more enriching and authentic life. While encouraging her tutor (Stephen Tompkinson) to find a love for life through pursuing his poetry and to think more outside himself, to pursue genuine connection with people and embrace sobriety and purpose.
This show has a great message for people struggling with a lack of purpose and proud cultural and self identity. This show has an inspiring and uplifting message of finding purpose, refusing to settle and accepting the limitations of your circumstances to strive for better and to be a better person. Through determination and a passion to learn and grow, people can be more than the story they, their family or society tells them about themselves. Despite being well educated the tutor is lacking in purpose and being able to view the world and life in an enriching and positive way, which Rita helps to inspire through empathy, honesty and the drive to have a continual positive impact. Despite being from two very different socio-economic backgrounds they form a genuine and powerful connection based on learning, life and their personal lives. Change is an aspect of the play which is constantly revisited, the change is typically centred around identity, purpose, growth and friendship. The willingness and determination to change, the openness to change mirrored by the other characters unwillingness to change and the importance of change.
Compelling performances with great and believable chemistry, throughout the show there are funny, emotional and tense moments, which the characters control well. I would highly recommend this play; it has strong performances from both characters, with Rita being constantly likeable and endearing and the tutor playing drunk and nihilistic believably. An inspiring message that people aren’t trapped by their circumstances or the story they tell themselves, with a passion and determination to improve or change your circumstances as well as learning to engage with life in a more enriching way.
Reviewer: Andrew Tubman
Reviewed: 1st November 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★