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Educating Rita - Cheltenham Everyman REVIEW

I first saw the production in 2018 with the same cast but this time around it has been cut down and condensed into a more Covid-friendly 90-minute version.

I feel this benefits the story, bringing the relationship between Rita and Frank into sharper focus. The shorter production beautifully compares and contrasts how the two characters learn from each other and develop over the evening.

Between the director Max Roberts, producer David Pugh and writer Willy Russell, this version creates a snappy insight into a unique friendship; using it as a platform to tell further stories and lessons.

When overexcited hairdresser Rita, played by Jessica Johnson, enrols on a university course to expand her horizons, little does she realise where the journey will take her.

Her tutor Frank, played by Stephen Tompkinson is a frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, who is less than enthusiastic about taking Rita on, but the two soon realise how much they have to teach each other.

Tompkinson’s exasperated expressions and cynical statements balance Johnson’s frantic energy and passion to learn as the pair drink whisky and discuss literary giants while the weeks roll on.

They both give outstanding performances and expertly deliver the fast and witty dialogue that drives the characters through the scenes.

The literary references come in abundance and are very clever once you read into them, particularly when Frank is ironically discussing the definition of a tragedy when he is a walking definition of one.

This stimulating and engaging production feels as fresh as it did 40 years ago and I’m sure it will do so for many more years to come.

The production continues to tour across the UK until September 18.

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