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Scott Bellis, Holly Lewis in Educating Rita

Educating Rita’s themes are well known both through the stage comedy and in the 1983 film starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, explored in numerous recreations. For those not familiar with the story: Unsophisticated, uneducated girl wants to better herself; older educated male will guide her on a journey of self discovery.

Both characters wind up influencing one another through British playwright Willy Russell’s precise, witty, and entertaining script following observations of self absorption and contradiction. The Arts Club Theatre’s Educating Rita is full of hope and inspiration. Both characters grow, learn, and become better people by the show’s end.

Holly Lewis, Scott Bellis

This production, directed by Sarah Rodgers, is well paced. Scenes are orchestrated with the use of a door, stage lighting, and a beautifully designed window depicting the changing seasons with believable special effects. Kudos to the Arts Club creative team including Set and Costume Designer Drew Fay, Lighting Designer Gerald King, and Sound Designer and Cayman Duncan.

All have successfully created the nuances of a professor’s office stuck in time with books, old furniture, and classic ‘gothic university’ architecture. The time between scenes is marked by music which, according to the director’s notes, are from “today’s current strong British female bands – the many Ritas strongly speaking today”. The music was upbeat and placed the play in the present.

Scott Bellis 

The male lead is played by Scott Bellis who, while excellent in his role, will be replaced on October 4 by Ted Cole, an Arts Club veteran actor who I believe will match Frank’s kind but lost character with that of Bellis, in an equally strong, physical performance.

Holly Lewis

The role of Rita is performed by Holly Lewis; her portrayal of chatty, witty but frustrated Rita is spot-on, right down to the thick Cockney accent. With a cast of two, Educating Rita’s success relies on the energy created between them.

The push and pull of the character struggles and their relationship to one other is played well by both actors. There is a fair amount of movement on stage, adding to the energy and tension required to make the relationship believable. 

The Arts Club Theatre Company’s presentation of Educating Rita both entertains and inspires. I left the theater encouraged to pursue my own passion while enjoying a few chuckles along the way. 

Educating Rita continues at the Arts Club Granville Island Stage through October 25. Photos by Murray Mitchell.

About Our Contributor MJ Ankenman

MJ Ankenman

MJ moved to Vancouver in 2005 and has been keeping busy ever since, enjoying all that the West coast has to offer, sharing discoveries through her writing and photography. MJ’s interests include yoga, biking, hiking, and enjoying BC wine. Follow MJ on Twitter @urbanista.

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