Tag Archives: Educating Rita

NEWS: Gray O’Brien to star in Perth Theatre’s Educating Rita

Award-winning ex-Corrie favourite, Scottish film and television actor Gray O’Brien is taking on the iconic role of Frank in Perth Theatre’s production of Educating Rita.

Gray picked up the British Soap Awards Villain of the Year gong for his role as Tony Gordon on the cobbles from 2007 until 2010, and has also had regular roles in Peak PracticeCasualty and River City. In 2017, he starred in ITV mini drama series The Loch. He recently played Levine in Bill Kenwright’s touring stage show Catch Me if you Can.

Gray will be joined by Rachael-Rose McLaren in the role of Rita. Emerging talent Rachael-Rose was last seen in Perth Theatre in November 2022 in the sell-out National Theatre of Scotland production Enough of Him about the Perthshire slave Joseph Knight and his bid for freedom.

Running in Perth Theatre from Thursday 16 March until Saturday 1 April, Educating Rita is directed by Martin McCormick, who won the hearts of the people of Perth with celebrated community football show Oh When the Saints in June 2022.

Willy Russell’s hysterical, thought-provoking modern classic premiered in 1980 at the RSC and went on to win multiple awards as well as being adapted for a feature film starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine.

Still as relevant and powerful more than 40 years after it first hit the stage, Educating Rita centres around the relationship between Rita a working-class hairdresser with a thirst for knowledge and disillusioned university lecturer Frank.

Martin McCormick said:

“I’m thrilled to be directing Educating Rita as it’s very much what I’d consider to be a modern classic.  It’s the typical clash of cultures formula between teacher and pupil that can be traced back to Pygmalion and beyond. Rita seeks to enlighten herself with the help of university professor, Frank. There is loads going against her; family, class, her gender.  But the major stumbling block is Frank himself!

Educating Rita contains all the hallmarks of what audiences love in a play. It’s funny, entertaining, thought-provoking and- even after the 40 plus years since Willy Russell wrote it – very relevant.”

Educating Rita is the first play in the revitalised Perth Theatre Season Subscription which gives regular theatregoers significant discounts when booking a selection of shows including popular classics, timeless comedy, mind-boggling mysteries and uplifting musicals.

Other productions in the Perth Theatre Season Subscription are The Mousetrap, National Theatre of Scotland’s Kidnapped, London Classic Theatre’s Abigail’s Party and the Raw Material and Eden Court co-production The Stamping Ground.

Audiences receive a discount of 15% when booking at least three shows, or 25% when booking all five together.

For tickets and info about Educating Rita and the Perth Theatre Season Subscription visit perththeatreandconcerthall.com or call or visit the Perth Theatre Box Office on 01738 621031 (10am – 4pm Monday to Saturday).

REVIEWS: Educating Rita with Matthew Kelly and Claire Sweeney, Theatre Royal Glasgow 28th May 2012

Willy Russell’s tale of a brash Liverpool hairdresser’s desire to better herself through a new found interest in literature, and her relationship with her tutor Frank, whose disillusionment with life has driven him to the bottle, proved an entertaining evening out at The Theatre Royal. I had barely any memory of seeing the Oscar nominated, three BAFTA award winning 1983 film based on the play, in fact I had to go and Google it to find out who Julie Walters co-star was! (Michael Caine if you’re interested). So this was like seeing something new. Originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the show won the 1980 Society of West End Theatres award for Best Comedy and Best Play. Since then, Educating Rita has never been out of production somewhere in the world.

The success of the evening hinged largely on the easy chemistry between Matthew Kelly as Frank, the Open University tutor and Claire Sweeney as Rita, and the fact that it’s a well-written, warm and witty piece.

Olivier award winner Kelly turns in a fine subtle comedic performance as Frank and Sweeney’s machine-gun delivery of Rita’s literal answers to Frank’s questions show great comic timing. Sweeney also gets to show some depth as an actress here, its easy to forget that that is what she is, not the TV presenter she seems to have become.

The story takes both on a roller coaster journey to find themselves: in Rita’s case for the first time and for Frank to find himself again. Despite being over 30 years old the play still has a resonance today: our struggle to balance the need to conform to peer pressure and societal expectations and our desire to be the person we really know we can be. In some ways it also  shows, rather frighteningly, that 30 years on women are still fighting the same fights.  As Rita grapples with the trials of education, Frank learns to believe in himself again and to Willy Russell’s credit the play doesn’t end on the usual euphoric high, rather it leaves us with something better and more real – hope and optimism. This is deservedly thought of as one of the best pieces of drama of the last 50 years and this high quality production only confirms it. 

Go along and see it if you can.

Theatre Royal Glasgow running until Saturday 2nd June