Polished but too safe version of the popular classic
This article is from 2012.
You've probably read Educating Rita at school. If not, you've almost certainly seen the classic film, starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters. Willy Russell's play is still a key component in British popular culture. A new version, then, needs to be something special. While Tamara Harvey's production is solid it's a touch too safe for the Fringe.
Claire Sweeney plays Liverpudlian Rita, who blasts into Dr Frank's Open University office demanding to 'learn everything'. Sweeney might not have the chaotic energy of past interpretations but she's an honest and endearing performer. There's a surprising softness to her Rita, who seems more concerned with helping her drunken tutor than bettering her own life.
But it all feels a tad predictable. Although there's a gentle chemistry between Sweeney’s Rita and Dr Frank (Matthew Kelly), there are no real fireworks. Kelly makes for a wonderful drunk but there's not enough grit beneath his gravelly outbursts. It’s a polished production but it never reaches the emotional depths necessary to make this over-exposed play feel fresh once more.
Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 26 Aug (not 20), 1.15pm, £10--£12 (£8--£10).