Tag Archives: Educating Rita

NEWS: STEPHEN TOMPKINSON & JESSICA JOHNSON STAR IN THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY PRODUCTION OF WILLY RUSSELL’S EDUCATING RITA

David Pugh and Theatre by the Lake are delighted to announce that their highly acclaimed production of Willy Russell’s EDUCATING RITA will run at Theatre Royal, Glasgow in 2020 as part of 40th anniversary UK tour.

Starring Stephen Tompkinson as Frank and Jessica Johnson as Rita, the play will  run from Monday 24 February until Saturday 29 February 2020.

The production is directed by Max Roberts.

EDUCATING RITA tells the story of married hairdresser Rita, who enrols on an Open University course to expand her horizons, and her encounters with university tutor Frank. Frank is a frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, who is less than enthusiastic about teaching Rita. However, Frank soon finds that his passion for literature is reignited by Rita, whose technical ability for the subject is limited by her lack of education, but whose enthusiasm Frank finds refreshing. The two soon realise how much they have to learn from each other.

EDUCATING RITA was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and played at the Warehouse Theatre, London in 1980, starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston. Julie Walters reprised her role in the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning film opposite Michael Caine.

Born in Liverpool in 1947, Willy Russell left school at 15 and became a women’s hairdresser and part-time singer/songwriter before returning to education to retrain as a teacher. Russell’s other writing credits include the Olivier Award-winning musical Blood Brothers, and the hugely successful play Shirley Valentine, which won the Olivier Awards for Best New Comedy and Best New Actress, and a  Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. The play was adapted for film and nominated for a host of BAFTA and Academy Awards. Willy Russell continues to be one of the most celebrated writers of his generation with works constantly in production throughout the world as well as in the UK.

Willy Russell said of this tour: “I am delighted that Stephen and Jess are returning next year to play Frank and Rita in the 40th anniversary production of Educating Rita, directed once again by the wonderful Max Roberts – I’m extremely proud to be associated with this marvellous production.”

Stephen Tompkinson’s television credits include ITV’s Torvill & Dean, BBC’s The Split, five series of DCI Banks, four series of Trollied, seven series of Wild at Heart, six series of Drop the Dead Donkey (British Comedy Award Winner for Best TV Comedy Actor) and three series of Ballykissangel, and his films include Phil in Brassed Off. His theatre work includes Spamalot, Rattle of a Simple Man and Arsenic and Old Lace in the West End, Cloaca and A Christmas Carol (Old Vic), Art and Tartuffe (National Tours).

Stephen Tompkinson said: “We had such a wonderful time touring and performing this last year around the UK.  Audiences respond so well to Willy Russell’s brilliant two-hander.  The response Jess and I receive and their affection for this play and these characters are overwhelming.  I’m thrilled to be a part of this production and to be sharing the stage with Jess again in even more cities next year.”

Jessica Johnson’s theatre credits include Call Me Mary Poppins, Goth Weekend, Kings and Queens, Each Piece and Anti-Gravity at the Live Theatre, Newcastle. She previously played Rita in Rebecca Frecknall’s 2017 production of Educating Rita at the Gala Theatre, Durham. Her television credits include Wire In The Blood (ITV), Coronation Street (ITV) and Cuckoo (Channel 4).

Jessica Johnson said: “Working with Willy, Max and Stephen earlier this year and developing the role of Rita in front of incredible audiences, has been the highlight of my career so far. It has been a total honour and now I get to do it again in the 40th anniversary production. I couldn’t be happier.”

Max Roberts is Emeritus Artistic Director of Newcastle’s Live Theatre. Under his direction, the Live Theatre has become one of the country’s most successful theatre companies with an outstanding reputation for developing new work. His Olivier Award-nominated production of Lee Hall’s Cooking With Elvis transferred to the West End’s Whitehall Theatre (now Trafalgar Studios) before touring nationally. He also directed The Pitman Painters, which transferred to the National Theatre and won Best Play at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards before opening on Broadway.

LISITNGS

Educating Rita

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Mon 24 – Sat 29 Feb 2020

Mon-Sat: 7.30pm

Wed & Sat: 2.30pm

www.atgtickets.com*

0844 871 7647**

*fees apply

**calls cost up to 7p per minute plus you phone’s company’s access charge

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