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Posts Tagged ‘Willy Russell’

Though not as successful as the same playwright’s Shirley Valentine, also in rep at the Menier, Willy Russell’s 1980 play gets a very welcome revival.

It occupies similar territory to SV – a young hairdresser seeking to break out of her entrapment, but this time through education. Each short scene constitutes a meeting with her Open University tutor at various stages of her journey. She falls for her new life and her new friends and he falls for her.

Laura Dos Santos is terrific as Rita, more believable than Julie Walters in the film because she is / seems younger and more impressionable. Larry Lamb seemed distracted on the night I went, which affected his performance, particularly in the first half.

The are too many short scenes, which leads in an episodic structure so that the play doesn’t flow as well as SV. Still, much to enjoy, again timeless, and well worth another trip to the Menier.

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I don’t think there’s ever been a major London revival of this, or Educating Rita which is running in rep with it, which is a puzzle to me(as is the fact that an excellent writer like Willy Russell hasn’t written much for almost 20 years!). Though the furniture and clothes have dated, the story is timeless and the humour has lasted well. How can a man write so well for a woman?

Shirley’s tale of an unfulfilled life is told brilliantly by Meera Syal. How do you command a stage and hold an audience for 100 minutes and make egg and chips whilst you’re doing it? (they looked good too; I bet the stage managers fight over who gets to scoff them during the second scene!). Well she does it so well and really does make the part her own.

Yet again, the Menier leads the way, breathing new life into a long overdue revival. Now I’m very much looking forward to Educating Rita next week…..

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