Lenny Henry delivered a flawless performance at Chichester’s Minerva Studio the night after he hit the national headlines for forgetting his lines.
Starring in the two-hander, Educating Rita by Willy Russell, Henry had to walk off stage on opening night after the memory lapse.
But the next night, it was all a bad dream as he and his co-star swept through without hesitation.
Editor In Chief Gary Shipton attended the production the night after opening night (Wednesday), and below is his review of the show:
Educating Rita by Willy Russell at the Chichester Festival Minerva Studio.
The opening night of this eagerly awaited revival hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Lenny Henry briefly forgot his lines and left the stage before returning to complete the drama.
On that evening, the audience deservedly gave him and his brilliant co-star Lashana Lynch a standing ovation.
After all, any play performed in the intense intimacy of the Minerva by just two players is something of an achievement in itself.
That they carried it off with such style and accomplishment - despite the horror of the memory lapse - made it a landmark performance for Chichester’s 2015 season.
At heart, it’s a reworking of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion - better known to music lovers as My Fair Lady.
A professor, Frank, transforms an intellectual innocent Rita into a person more formidable than himself.
Set in Frank’s study over the course of a year, the set is crafted to perfection. And Henry - although demonstrating flashes of the facially dextrous comic genius that made him famous - proves he is a character actor of real depth.
Frank’s struggle with alcohol and his eventual decline gives even sharper contrast to Lynch’s portrayal of Rita.
And if that sounds grim, it is anything but. The humorous, engaging warmth of Russell’s script has not dated or faded despite the passage of some decades.
I reviewed the performance the night after opening night.
There were no hesitations then.
And if there was any obvious nervousness, then it was on the part of some of the audience - who wished this great cast nothing but success.
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