Friday, 30 July 2010

Educating Rita: From Liverpool's Past to Trafalgar's Present, Still Short of the Mark

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, many, many years ago, there was a University Drama Society, based at Liverpool University.

And one day, many, many years ago, that University Drama Society, without a hint of irony, decided to put on a play: that play was Educating Rita. A scouse play. A Liverpudlian play.

The (non-Liverpudlian) students involved worked very, very hard, but it has to be said, there was little new or interesting about the show. It was staged in quite an interesting room; the actors involved had to work very, very hard to get all their lines learnt, but when it came to the crunch, the show was distinctly average.

The End.

Incredible really, that, to my mind, there were about 100 layers of meaning, subtlety, nuance and so on that we missed. Plodding slightly thoughtlessly through in our 90s grey-scale nike trainers, I guess. But then I sometimes think, that's students for you.

The show's currently running in London. I went along with my sister. Despite similarly fantastic hard-working actors and another interesting venue (the Trafalgar Studios), once again, I felt it was an average production. (Happily, she loved it.)

I was struggling with my review for londonist one morning, when it suddenly turned into a political piece about funding. Very unlike me.

It's a shame, because I think Willy Russell is a fantastic writer. There's just something a little bit twee, a little bit stuck-in-a-time-warp, a little bit workin'-cla'ss-heroww (as EW might say) about his work. I almost wish someone would ask him to script a story that they're in charge of, and he might do better.

For delicious one liners, he's up there with Mr Stoppard. For universality of theme, timelessness of emotion, I don't think he even gets close.

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