Review – Two revivals – Educating Rita at the Menier; Sweet Nothings at the Royal Northampton (courtesy of Young Vic)

Best news from the Menier Chocolate Factory is that the seats are comfortable!! Yay!! They even have some form of lumber support!! Woohoo!!

Educating Rita Willy Russell’s play about the Liverpool hairdresser ambitious for literary knowledge is so well known, primarily because of the ace performances of Julie Walters and Michael Caine in the film, that there can only be two possible reasons to mount a revival. One would be if it was to drastically update it somehow, so that it told a different story more relevant to today; the other would be simply to wallow in its humour and charm relying on tiptop performances and red hot script.

Larry LambWell this production largely falls into the second category. It looks very much like it did in the 1980s and Larry Lamb and Laura Dos Santos turn in first rate entertaining performances. For anyone new to this play it would be a splendid account of it. For me, unfortunately, I found myself mentally repeating some of the lines with the cast as I realised, in the words of Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, that I knew it so well. It hadn’t occurred to me that this would happen. I rather disappointed myself.

Laura Dos SantosThe “updating” aspect of it included a reference to the lottery which I’m sure wasn’t there in 1980; but my main quibble with the production is the removal of the interval. I rather like an interval. I am of an age where after about 70 minutes I get an urge to have a walk – possibly to an area set aside for liquid refreshment – possibly to another area where liquid refreshment previously consumed can be comfortably released into the environment. I also *can* have a tendency to nod off. Which I regret I did slightly about three quarters of the way through, and if I’d had 15 minutes break I would have been refreshed. It also deprives you of the chance to talk to your theatre companions and ask what they think of it – other people’s comments in the interval often shape the way you look at the second half. In this instance, the constant talking of the two characters for 100 minutes just gets a bit much.

Anyway, these are quibbles. It’s very good.

Sweet Nothings Sweet Nothings, just finished at the Young Vic, is a fin de siecle piece from Arthur Schnitzler, writer of La Ronde and other naughty plays. You know where you are with Schnitzler. It’s going to be menacing, sexy, provocative and ultimately deadly. This is no disappointment. Actually it’s a completely terrific production, superbly acted. The first scene with four young people having a drinking party which might well turn extremely sexual, depending on how it goes, is vibrant, confident, tactile, intimate, daring…. Natalie DormerThe four actors must have done some damn good workshops to get that level of understanding between them. I was particularly impressed with Natalie Dormer as Mitzi, every bit the bad girl, and Jack Laskey as the spoiled and brutal Theodore, wanting everything (and everyone) his way.

Jack LaskeyThen the party is broken up by a threatening presence and the only way is down for the naughty Fritz, who has been found out by his mistress’s husband. Oh dear. I challenge you to ze duel, etc. I was spellbound throughout. It’s going on to Kingston and Warwick, then Austria, Germany and Madrid before it finally closes, so catch it if you can.