Tag Archives: Stephen Tompkinson

Educating Rita – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

There’s an undeniable affection for Willy Russell’s 40-year-old, Pygmalion-like drama Educating Rita, from the great British theatre-going public. Originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and staged at what is now the Donmar Warehouse, it saw a much-loved and much-lauded film adaptation in 1983 starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine.

The story of 26-year-old, married, Liverpudlian hairdresser Rita (actually Susan) and her foray into the world of academia on an Open University course, and her tutor Frank, a career academic faded and jaded by university life, seeking solace in drink, this OU tutorship paying nicely for his alcoholic fix. Each feeds from the other: Rita’s world expands as she is exposed to the bohemian lifestyle of the students and Frank is energised by Rita’s lust for life. Each shines a light on the other: some truths are exposed, some assumptions shattered and inevitably, both Rita and Frank undergo changes, not necessarily for the better.

Four decades on (admittedly with a bit of updating from Russell himself for the 21st Century and this 40th anniversary tour) it still feels relevant, maybe depressingly so. Is it really still as hard for working class women, or those living in poverty to better themselves as it was in 1980? The ‘them and us’ world so prevalent then, is frighteningly familiar today.

Jessica Johnson and Stephen Tompkinson reprise their roles from the last national tour. Tompkinson’s natural hang-dog expression is perfectly suited to the world-weary Frank and he has time and time again proved himself to be one of the country’s most adept stage actors. Johnson’s Rita (Susan) is hugely likeable but her accent wavers frequently and her projection is such that it leaves you straining to hear much of her dialogue. That said, it is deservedly a British theatre classic, and still well worth watching.

Image: Robert Day

This post was originally written for The Reviews Hub

 

REVIEW: Art – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

This review was originally published by The Reviews Hub.

An almost universal hit on its debut in the 90s, French playwright Yasmina Reza’s Tony, Olivier and Moliere Award-winning Art, has embarked on a multi date revival tour of the U.K.

Serge (Nigel Havers), a divorced dermatologist, Marc (Denis Lawson) an engineer and Yvan (Stephen Tompkinson) a stationery salesman’s friendship is well and truly tested when Serge buys a large, expensive, entirely white, piece of modern art. Rational Marc is horrified, Yvan tries to placate the pair, but, when they turn on pacifier Yvan, their 25 year relationship implodes.

Packed with witty, wry, well-observed, razor-sharp dialogue, Art remains as funny as it ever was and the rapid-fire verbal gymnastics, delivered by the sure-footed trio, is an absolute delight. While the piece retains its philosophical, Gallic feel, the rumination on modern art may have lost some of its impact over time. The Brit-Art movement has pervaded popular culture and is less divisive than it once was. What it still does wonderfully, is examine the nature of long-term friendship and the ties that bind. It is brilliantly clever, and beneath the laughs, it poses important questions that we could all ask of our friendships.

Havers, Lawson and Tompkinson are hugely experienced actors and the aplomb and speed with which they tackle Reza’s complex dialogue is laudable. Tompkinson’s seven minute monologue on the politics of wedding invitations receives loud, well-deserved, spontaneous applause. In fact, there are bursts of applause throughout the piece, such is the quality of the work. Comic timing is also key and each actor can raise a laugh with the mere raising of an eyebrow.

At around 80 minutes, Art is short but perfectly formed. This is a class act and an extremely entertaining evening of theatre.

Currently touring the U.K. | Image: Contributed