Actors' romantic bubble means the show can go on as Educating Rita returns to the London stage
There's a script line in Willy Russell's play 'Educating Rita' where the leading man says he hates theatre.
However, for actor Stephen Tompkinson, who is taking on the role of Frank, it's a welcome return to the stage.The 40th anniversary touring production of the play has re-opened at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, and its return has meant the south-west London venue has been able to raise the curtain for the first time since theatres were forced to shut back in March.
Like all venues that are tentatively re-opening, the Rose can only operate in the current climate by following strict Covid safety measures. This means, among other rules, audiences must wear face coverings and there is a reduced capacity in the auditorium. However, on stage, the two stars can perform the show without needing to keep socially distanced, because Stephen Tompkinson and co-star Jessica Johnson, who plays Rita, are partners.
The fact they live together means the play can pick up from where it left off, with little changes to its pre-pandemic version. The actors can even hug.
Stephen said, "Fortunately because (Jessica and I) are partners, we were good to go, so we were just chomping at the bit for any theatre to give us a chance".
Jessica adds that if they weren't able to get close on stage, some of the more intimate and personal moments in the play would be lost.The Rose's Artistic Director Christopher Haydon says the play was perfect to get the venue open again, not just because the actors are already in their own bubble, but because he knew the popular tale would work practically, financially and artistically in what he calls "these extraordinarily weird circumstances."There is the fear of further restrictions lurking in the wings, but the play, optimistically, has dates at other venues around the country pencilled in. As Jessica says, "We're just going to have to play it day by day, week by week."