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'Educating Rita'

May 2006

By Willy Russell

University lecturer Frank needs to earn some extra money, so he agrees to tutor an Open University student. His student Rita is a brash, earthy hairdresser with a recently discovered passion for higher education, much to the dismay of her husband Denny. In her attempts to appreciate literature, Rita challenges the attitudes of a traditional university, teaching Frank to question his own understanding of his work and himself.

The play was inspired by Willy's experiences at evening classes. Much of the comedy arises from Rita's fresh, unschooled reaction to the classics of English literature, but she is never patronised by Frank, who recognises from his own experience that education is a means of escape from one's own circumstances.

Educating Rita is an intimate comedy, but it is also a play about class and choice.

Winner of the Society of West End Theatres award for Best Comedy 1980, the play was also made into a film starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine.