Review: Even 10 stars don’t do justice to Talisman show

Educating Rita. Picture by  Pete Weston
Educating Rita. Picture by Pete Weston

Educating Rita, Talisman Theatre until Feb 7

This production of Educating Rita is simply one of the best I have seen on any stage. I’m tempted to use so many superlatives that I’ll have none left for any other production.

But there it is: it is a beautiful show, sensitively played by two actors in full command of their roles, and intelligently directed.

To find fault would be difficult, if not churlish.

In a two-hander like this everything depends on the quality of acting, because if it isn’t top notch the play sinks like a lead balloon.

Here it is nuanced to the nth degree. Frank (Matthew Salisbury) is an alcoholic academic, secure in a tenure at an Oxbridge college from which he can’t be sacked, though he tries his best to be so.

He takes on the job of an Open University tutor to pay for his booze.

His first and only OU student is Rita (Julie-Ann Randall), a working class girl with ambitions to improve herself through education.

There is an immediate clash of interests – Frank to disabuse her of her fantasies about high culture, which remind him of his own failures, and Rita to find what is so singularly lacking in her constricted life, in which she is expected only to breed and behave.

The play has a fine pedigree, and if the actors perform in the shadows of some of the greats, well who wouldn’t want such influences?

If I could give this production eleven stars I would. See it. Just go and see it.

Rating 10/10

By Nick Le Mesurier