Rita is a working class hairdresser determined to better herself with higher education. On joining an Open University English Literature course Rita is assigned to Frank, a whisky loving frustrated well read professor tired of academic life.
This two handed play, brilliantly executed by Danielle Flett and Ruairi Conaghan incites the audience into the world of education and its premise of choice. As the two characters share this path with each other, both their minds are broadened, as it is so for the spectator too.
Rita enters the Professor’s chandelier lit study, cluttered with books and papers, nerves spurring constant chatter, expressing eagerness and hunger to learn – EVERYTHING. Wanting to escape the humdrum of her life, feeling education will improve her. Frank grudgingly accepts the challenge and in the process her enthusiasm revitalising his. Frank in fact sees Rita’s enthusiasm as a great asset “What you already have is valuable”.
In this version Danielle portrays Rita as an Essex girl as to the original Liverpudlian, perhaps so we will resonate more, however Danielle’s interpretation of a insecure and cheeky Rita is easy enough to warm too, enhanced by a comical scene of her practicing being well spoken. Indeed you feel proud as she finds her way, to quote her “If you want to change you’ve got to do it on the inside”.
On the other side of the table is Frank, who when Rita first starts, she thinks his ‘well cool’ being educated and enjoying his drink, as he fumbles around the bookshelf behind the likes of Blake, Forster, Yeats, Chekhov and Shakespeare for his hidden whisky bottles. His an amicable, constructively comprised enough drunk as he encourages Rita’s learning.
The second half of the show with a change to florescent lighting in Franks study, shows time has moved on with Rita returning form Summer school, passing her exams and comfortably taking her place with the educated visiting a rather drunker Frank. This scene is superbly and humorously portrayed by Ruairi as he staggers around explaining his been forced to take sabbatical to Australia.
Is Frank really a worse drunk though? Or is the emphasis just a clever way of portraying how a now educated Rita, who sees a great lecturer in Frank, is more self-confident and suddenly more aware how he is also a desperate drunk in need of their camaraderie just as much to inspire him to re-evaluate his life choices.
A superb, mindful, motivating comedy and a lesson well worth enjoying.