Samantha Harper reviews An Education, part of On the Rocks.
An Education, based on a film adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir, follows a young girl navigating the trials of growing up both within a formal school environment as well as the outside world. Jenny (Eleanor Burke) meets an older man, David (Liam Smith), who shows her the world of art, music, and adulthood.
David is supposed to be a smooth talker who can con everyone around him. Smith did an excellent job; despite all David’s glaring faults you love him until you hate him. It’s not that hard to make me cry, but it is difficult to make my blood boil with rage: a feat Smith accomplished effortlessly. David, Danny (Felix Griffin Pain), and Helen (Mirrhyn Stephen) had great chemistry as a group and made objectively unlikeable characters enjoyable to watch. Jack (Charlie Flynn) and Marjorie (Francesca Ash) did a fabulous job as parents- Flynn was a remarkably convincing overbearing father and brought a measure of comedy to an otherwise serious show. Ash and Flynn had a great on-stage relationship and had nice character arcs throughout the play.
Burke’s leading role was another stand-out performance. She connected well with all the other actors and showed a brilliant level of depth. Jenny’s betrayal was heartfelt and poignant. Her ability to transition from childish school-girl to a grieving woman in the course of an evening was fantastic.
Overall, the actors in this production were fabulous- they connected well with each other and the story and really brought the play to life.
In between scenes we got snippets of jazz and black and white film of Paris and London. It was an interesting choice to set the scene. The set was simple but effective, using a split-level stage to expand the small space.
My only complaint has to do with the attention to detail. For such a wonderfully acted performance, there were several little issues that could have easily been eliminated. The actors often spoke quite quietly, especially during more intimate scenes. In such a such a small space as The STAge, no one should struggle to hear dialogue. Often actors would go to leave before the stage had gone completely dark or jump between scenes just a little too quickly. These issues are a quick fix and would bring the production to a new level.
The script itself was also wonderful, with natural and powerful language and a lovely monologue from Burke at the end. I was very impressed to learn that a student, Minoli De Salva, had adapted the play from the film.
Overall, I found An Education to be a wonderful story with powerful acting from all involved. I would definitely recommend seeing the final night performance.