REVIEW: Educating Rita Mesmerizes Belfast Crowd At The Lyric

In the spirit of a brevity employed by one of the main characters, Rita White, when she says “Do it on the table”; I will simply say, “Go watch this brilliant play.”

Kerri Quinn 1From the moment I took my seat at the Lyric Theatre to await the opening of Willy Russell’s play “Educating Rita” I was pulled in by the perfection of the stage that had been set before me.

It was reminiscent of a literary instructor’s office during my college years in America during the mid-eighties. Of course, this wasn’t my home state of Alabama three decades past. Still, the messages found within this fantastic stage production hold true for people regardless of place or time.

Adapted from the Liverpool version to suit its current stage in Belfast, the play quickly draws you into the quirky culture of Northern Ireland, but we all can identify with its characters.

Locals will appreciate the humorous nods to their daily life here, but one could be anywhere and still appreciate Rita’s desire to better herself in signing up for Open University courses.

No particular time frame would change the misery that surrounds the frumpy, drunken Frank. They are truly all of us.

Michael James Ford 2Hairdresser Rita White, played brilliantly by Belfast’s own Kerri Quinn, immerses you in her world. Her life seems out of control as she caters to an oppressive husband and the local female pensioners with their bad hair and worse dispositions.

She brings you along with her own a journey to become better, smarter, stronger! It’s a bumpy ride, but the levity she provides only make you appreciate her struggles all the more.

Her role is well countered by the must less enthusiastic character of Frank, a role taken on by the fabulous Michael James Ford of Dublin.

His character, fueled by drink and discontent, quickly learns that he has met his match in the feisty Rita. Sparks fly as this pair square off against one another, quickly becoming both friends and foes as she searches to find herself under his quirky style of tutoring.

Kerri Quinn and Michael James Ford 3There was truly not a single dull moment in this play. The actors owned their stage, weaving their tale in front of a mesmerized audience.

Finding two actors so capable of playing perfectly off one another’s cues must have been a complete joy for the theater, as it certainly was for me and my partner, Frank.

Hailing from Liverpool and having seen other productions of the play, he was equally as enthusiastic about the clever tailoring to suit the Northern Ireland stage. He’s a hard sell, so they absolutely got it right.

Do not miss this production while it’s in town…It’s superb!