Educating Rita makes triumphant Belfast return

Following its record-breaking run in 2016, this reimagined production of Willy Russells award-winning comedy returns to the Lyric with its original cast of Michael James Ford and Kerri Quinn (Credit: The Lyric)

Following its record-breaking run in 2016, this reimagined production of Willy Russells award-winning comedy returns to the Lyric with its original cast of Michael James Ford and Kerri Quinn (Credit: The Lyric)

Following its record-breaking run in 2016, the reimagined production of Willy Russell’s award-winning comedy has returned to the Lyric, Belfast with its original cast of Michael James Ford and Kerri Quinn, before embarking on an Irish tour.

Directed by Emma Jordan, this lively production sees two actors bounce excellently off one another from beginning to end.

A wise-cracking, no-nonsense hairdresser from the working-class streets of Belfast, Rita is tired of her job, her prospects, her husband, her life. (Credit: The Lyric, Belfast)

A wise-cracking, no-nonsense hairdresser from the working-class streets of Belfast, Rita is tired of her job, her prospects, her husband, her life. (Credit: The Lyric, Belfast)

It is the palpable onstage chemistry between Ford and Quinn that allows this play to captivate the audience for the duration, a mean feat considering that this production focuses on the duo for the entirety of the play, and indeed is set entirely within Frank’s dusty office filled with its badly stacked books and half-empty whiskey bottles.

Kerri Quinn wows the audience once again with her comedic ability, instantly getting the audience onside as we sympathise with her quest for ‘self-improvement.’

Coming from a besieged community in Belfast in 1980 where education is not only far from a priority, but actively mocked, ‘Rita’ decides it’s time for a change.

Despite never revealing the exact location, Rita’s frustration at life in the working-class streets of Belfast is obvious.

She has grown discontent with her life in every area, from her unhappy marriage to the ‘boring’ conversations at the salon where she works.

“I just want to know...Know everything about everything!” she bursts, at several points of the play.

Cue Rita’s enrolment to the Open University to learn English Literature where she meets her enigmatic tutor Frank, played expertly by Ford.

Easily transitioning from hilarious to poignantly sad in a turn of phrase, Quinn’s ability to portray Rita’s journey of self-discovery was more than worthy of a standing ovation.

Meanwhile, divorced, an alcoholic, and sick to the back teeth of the pretensions of academic life, Frank finds Rita’s enthusiasm for learning and down-to-earth attitude refreshing.

Indeed, Ford’s ability to transition Frank’s witty one-liners at the beginning of the play to a shadow of the man he was before is critical to this excellent piece of local theatre.

Frank and Rita make an unlikely pair, but that is what makes this play all the more intriguing.

Educating Rita runs from February 4 - February 25 at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

To find out more, including information on captioned and audio-described performances, visit lyrictheatre.co.uk/event/educating-rita/.