HATHERSAGE: Players earn top marks for Educating Rita

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There’s a classic speech in Educating Rita which always raises the biggest laugh at amateur productions of Willy Russell’s rites of passage play.

There’s a classic speech in Educating Rita which always raises the biggest laugh at amateur productions of Willy Russell’s rites of passage play.

University lecturer Frank pooh-poohs the suggestion of watching amateurs perform in a church hall but is swiftly put in his place by Liverpudlian student Rita who says: “Y’ve gorra give them a chance.”

Chances are that few amateur companies would dare tackle the Eighties benchmark of British theatre which, three decades on, has lost none of its power to engage with and engross its audience.

The lengthy speeches take some memorising, placing an enormous demand on the two players.

Give or take the odd prompt, Hathersage Players rise to the challenge in a production directed by Peggy Flint this week.

Gemma Laidler and Roger Plank are well up to the mark, building up chemistry that lights up the stage.

She brings empathy to the role of likeable hairdresser who is hungry to learn and has a down-to-earth approach to all matters highbrow. Her character’s journey from uneducated, unhappy wife to academic, confident singleton is absorbingly powerful and her Pygmalion-like transformation is echoed in multiple costume changes.

Roger leaves an indelible mark on the role of disenchanted Frank whose career and personal life are going down the pan as fast as he can knock back bottles of whisky secreted behind books.

Set designers earn gold stars for transforming the Memorial Hall stage into a cluttered office and the choice of accompanying music, which ranges from a football anthem to classical tunes, is spot-on.

Educating Rita continues its run tonight (Friday, June 7) and tomorrow.

GAY BOLTON