ACT Theatre Reviews 2021-2022

EDUCATING RITA by Willy Russell Directed by Marilyn Crowther Burnley Garrick Theatre Group You can’t really go wrong with Willy Russell, with his ‘Valentines’ and his ‘Brothers’. If his name is above, or below, the title on poster, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good house. The auditorium at the Burnley Youth Theatre was nearly full and the audience seemed to soak up every moment of Russell’s play with each scene ending with a round of applause. The setting was well realised with Frank’s study looking suitably lived in, complete with a bookshelf bursting with literature, and a stained-glass window that had been welded shut with the passing of time. A two-hander play lives or dies on its cast. Fortunately, this production lived and breathed; the talent on stage was evident from the off. We opened to Frank, a tired, sad, past-his-best tenured professor played by Alan Hargreaves who captured the pathos of the role and handled Russell’s dialogue with aplomb. You could feel Franks self-loathing even before it was mentioned. You also empathised with Frank’s joy and sorrow throughout the play. His on-stage chemistry with Jessica Sanderson (Rita) was a joy to behold. Also, the choice to change Frank’s costumes subtly throughout the play was inspired. A scene with a drunk Frank was particularly memorable in that Alan was funny whilst also breaking your heart. Alan had the audience with him throughout the whole play.