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 explores the relationship between student and tutor.
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 the Willy, who recognises from his own experience that education is a means of escape from one's own circumstances.

Commissioned by the RSC and directed by Mike Ockrent. First performed at the Warehouse in June 1980 and then transferred to the Piccadily Theatre in September the same year. 

It was first produced at the Liverpool Playhouse in February 1981 and marked Willy Russell's first venture as a director.

The RSC production ran in the West End for two and a half years since when Educating Rita has never been out of production somewhere in the world.

Rita and Frank - Julie Walters and Mark Kingston
Educating Rita is a small intimate play, but it tells a story of big ideas, ideas close to Willy Russell's heart. There is a lot of humour in the writing, but it is also a serious play, about class and choice.

The original production of Educating Rita at the Warehouse Theatre in London
"I wanted to make a play which engaged and was relevant to those who considered themselves uneducated, those whose daily language is not the language of the university or the theatre. I wanted to write a play which would attract, and be as valid for, the Ritas in the audience as the Franks."

Willy Russell


Frank - Mark Kingston
Rita - Julie Walters
Winner of the Society of West End Theatres award for Best Comedy 1980.

Major national tour in 1982.
Returned to The Liverpool Playhouse in November 2002.
Rita - Angela Clarke
Frank - Richard O'Callaghan
Read reviews from Educating Rita productions.

Angela Clarke as Rita in the 2002 production
Educating Rita is a simple yet powerful story that reaches the hearts of people and has been performed in dozens of countries across the world.
When adapting successful stage play for the cinema, the writer and the director always have to face the question of how much to 'open up' the material without compromising the original. In adapting the hit comedy-drama Educating Rita for the big screen, director Lewis Gilbert and writer Willy Russell had a bigger hurdle than usual to jump here, for not only was the play set in just one room, it was also a two-hander!

Written by Willy Russell
Commissioned by Columbia
Produced and Directed by Lewis Gilbert for Acorn Pictures.
Released 1983
Frank - Michael Caine
Rita - Julie Walter
Brian - Michael Williams
Trish - Maureen Lipman
Julia - Jeananne Crowley
Denny - Malcolm Douglas
Julie Walters
"The way people cosset you is lovely. There are cars to take you everywhere and everyone makes a fuss. But the first day I went to rushes and saw my face on that big screen I nearly fainted."

Best Film
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Actor
Best Actress


Willy in Liverpool
Willy outside the Odean Cinema in London Road, Liverpool prior to the World Premier of Educating Rita. The video and DVD of the film is available.
The front cover of the video of Educating Rita