Author: Tony Palfreeman
We have seen Alan Glover in a wide variety of roles, from the stand up comical to the tragi-comical to the simply tragic. But none of these labels fits this pas de deux, featuring Cath Patterson as Rita and Alan as Frank.
Their Educating Rita is a multilayered venture into the connections between student and teacher, exuberance and exasperation, self-confidence and self-doubt, excitement and cynicism.
Alan expertly captures the character of Frank, as a mid- level academic, now teaching Open University courses for extra cash, addicted to the booze, and with a disillusioned take on academia, on teaching, and on life in general.
Rita is a Liverpudlian hairdresser set on expanding her horizons by enrolling in Frank’s English literature class. What they learn together about each other’s hopes and fears, mindsets and class structures, language and expression, is at the heart of the story. Cath Patterson, in her debut acting performance, brings much verve and energy to the role of Rita.
The theatre in the round approach is an interesting departure from the usual. Giles Tester’s imaginative stage set is Frank’s study, furnished with the teacher’s usual paraphernalia of books, papers and the odd carefully concealed bottle of alcoholic pick-me-up, and allows director Robyn Blackwell to ensure the audience feels intimately engaged.
There is no space here to congratulate all individuals in the dedicated team, drawn together by Robyn, producer Camilla Dorsch and Stage Manager Andrew Jones, to add one more star production to the Valley Artists’ firmament. A terrific night’s entertainment.
Willy Russell wrote Educating Rita in 1980, reprising a theme introduced by George Bernard Shaw in his Pygmalion written in 1912. Both writers would be as pleased as Punch to see their timeless theme replayed by the Valley Artists in our own Laguna Hall, so many years later.