Chichester Festival Theatre: Lashana’s star turn as Rita
Lashana Lynch senses huge nationwide affection for Willie Russell’s Educating Rita, in which she’s playing Rita in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre (June 18-July 25).
“We were talking about how popular it is, and really the play is like the nation’s baby. Everyone loves it. It is one of those little treasures that everybody knows, and everyone is so fond of the film.
“Even people who don’t go to the theatre remember the film.
“I can remember waiting for the film to come out as a DVD with a Sunday newspaper. For my generation, it was a play we studied at school, and I just loved it. I thought it was absolutely marvellous.”
The play is famously the tale of Rita’s desire to be educated and of her life-changing encounter with world-weary lecturer Frank, played in Chichester by Lenny Henry.
“As an actress, it is great to have a strong, determined, confident, emotional female part, especially in a two-hander.
“For a young person, it is just such a great part to have. The story has got everything in it. It has got emotion. It is about overcoming your class, the fight against the classes, the fight to overcome the stereotypes, the fight to stand up in society.
“It is also just brilliant writing. Willie Russell knew exactly what he was doing with this one. Well, he always knows what he is doing! But this one is my favourite.
“When I first went to audition, I asked if we were going to be changing it at all, and they said, no, we would be sticking completely to the original.
“There is nothing about it that couldn’t be set in modern times. The characters are timeless, and so are the situations. It’s a classic play.
“I have done a three-hander before, but not a two-hander. I was a bit daunted at the beginning, but actually it is really refreshing. With just the two of you, it is like playing a ping-pong mach. You see what happens on this journey between the two characters.
“If there are more people, you might go off for three or four scenes, and then you have got to remember where you are with your character before you go back on, but with this one, it is great to have the whole story in front of you in one go.
“But you do have to be really on the ball all the time.
“Rita is very likeable, but she is also extremely sensitive. She is not as confident as she makes out.
“But she commands a room like no other. I don’t know if people like her can be a bit intimidating. She is very full on… in the first half anyway. But you see her change. She keeps true to herself, but she strips off some of the layers…”
As for the fact that this is a black company, Lashana sees no significance.
“You could talk about whether it should have been done a long time ago, but there is no reason why it should not be done with a black cast.
“On the first day, we had Willie Russell there. He came in with everyone from the CFT, and he was saying ‘It is your play now; create it how you like.’ It is not a black story. It is not a white story. It is a classic story.
“It’s simply a story of two human beings coming together from different worlds.
Limited availability for tickets for Educating Rita on the Chichester Festival Theatre website at www.cft.org.uk.
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