Educating Rita is a play set entirely inside the office of an Open University tutor's office. Rita is a mature student who, for whatever reason, didn't go to university at a "normal" age. She enters the office like a whirlwind - funny, witty, full of life. It quickly becomes apparent that she uses her humour to hide her lack of education - everything is a laugh. However, an education is what she will pursue and not only that - Rita has big plans - she wants to know "Everything."
The actors on stage made the characters so very real. So alive. Leanne Best was fantastic - the passage of time and Rita's coming-of-age and real enlightenment was projected with ease. Con O'Neill was equally as brilliant as the "piss artist" Professor, Frank - with his hapless relationship, drinking booze hidden in his book shelf, and growing fondness for this vibrant young woman.
I loved the play. I loved everything about it. I first read it as I began the Open University myself. I too wanted to know "Everything." Many times the character of Rita has helped me to stay focused. The pursuit of all knowledge is a long one, and you do change. As Rita changed, I changed. I became more determined, more mature, more considered. Age has also played a part in this.
I worry that I am one of the last "Rita's" - rising costs of education means that it is practically impossible to finance and the pursuit of knowledge is a costly one if it doesn't guarantee you a better job or better prospects. But the change that it brings about in Rita, the change to her life - her awakening - everyone should have a right to a free or at least cheap education. Education should not be for the privileged. I would never be able to afford an undergraduate degree if I started it now - I just managed in the nick of time to complete the majority of mine when the fees were lower. Before this
Seeing this play has confirmed what I already knew. I am nowhere near finished with my pursuit of knowing "everything" - sometimes my books are everything to me, this is what I chose to do - because this is who I am.
Rita's eagerness to learn, her journey is frozen in this beautiful and moving play. Mine is continuing - and I don't know where it will take me - I'm just embracing the challenge, and, like Rita, I am singing a different tune to the one I was singing before.