Educating Rita *****
Clwyd Theatr Cymru
With such winning components, it would be hard to make a hash of it...
Following acclaimed productions of 'A Doll's House' and 'God of Carnage', Director Emma Lucia has once again brought back to life a much loved play, with a pace and energy that is fully engaging and as fresh as it would have been in the 80s.
The accomplished Richard Elfyn (Pornography; The Wizard, the Goat and the Man Who Won the War) is a joy to watch. His portrayal of Frank, the self deprecating cynic and self-proclaimed drunk whose hunger for life is re-awakened by the vibrancy of the new and unexpected student, is genuine. His desperation and longing for her presence and closeness is both endearing and uncomfortable; the perfect balance, keeping an intrigued audience on his side, but also satisfied when it doesn't play out the way he wants it to.
Katie Elin-Salt (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice; Love Steals us from Loneliness) is glorious as Rita - unflinching in her representation of a character who is at once flamboyant and innocent; confused yet assured and assertive. Her natural comic timing, coupled with her passionate playing of the role lends a freshness to familiar lines. She draws focus with her vibrant delivery, and has great command of this natural energy when the action demands a quieting of her character in the sombre, serious moments.
The two-hander is a great success in this coupling; the complexity of their relationship and its changing nature is played out with style, pace and a pleasing level of chemistry against an equally pleasing set.
The design (Max Jones) is controlled by natural tones and hues, creating an honest and comfortable backdrop, through its subtle conveyance of Frank's character and situation - the chaotic yet comfortable academic who is always surrounded by literature, his allies and enemies.
The very few updates of language and punch lines gives testament to the universal nature of Russell's themes and objectives; education, choice and self-discovery are always relevant, the choices are simply altered. As others in her life are settling for consumer driven choices, or whether to sign on or not, Rita is choosing between the life she's always known and been expected to live, and the one she's always secretly craved.
This display of perfect synergy between actors, director, writer and design is not worth missing! Educating Rita is playing at Sherman Cymru, 16 - 20 April, 7:30pm. For tickets contact the box office: 029 2064 6900