A Theatre by the Lake, David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers have produced the major 40th
anniversary production tour of Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’. Originally the play was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Warehouse Theatre in London 1980 starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston. Julie Walters played the role of Rita again in the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award winning film with co-star Michael Caine. The film was my first experience of this very loveable story. The Theatre by the Lake production of ‘Educating Rita’ is at the beginning of its UK 2020 tour and is currently on at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and will be returning to Scotland atthe Kings Theatre in Edinburgh in May.

When married hairdresser Rita enrols on a university course to expand her horizons,
little does she realise where the journey will take her. Her tutor Frank is a frustrated poet,
brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, who’s less than enthusiastic about taking Rita on, but
the two soon realise how much they have to teach each other.

Stephen Tompkinson’s portrayal of Frank was simply brilliant. He displayed the perfect balance of Frank’s witty and comedic humor as well as his darker, more vulnerable moments. From the
beginning you are drawn into Stephen Tompkinson’s character and you instantly lose any
preconceptions you may have from Michael Caines portrayal in the multi-award winning film. It feels harrowing to watch the decline of Frank towards the end of the play as you have been encapsulated and root for him despite his flaws.

Jessica Johnson’s portrayal of Rita was amazing. From the minute she appears on stage you are
drawn to the quirky, loveable portrayal of Rita. She has you in tears both from laughing and her very honest struggle to break away from the working class and feeling of being alien as she begins to do so. She delivers her complex dialogue beautifully at a fast pace although at times her otherwise strong accent slipped which was unfortunate. Despite this Jessica Johnson was the perfect choice for this role. Those who know Rita as Julie Walters would not be disappointed!

Max Roberts direction is subtle but brilliant paired with Patrick Connellan’s detailed
set of Frank’s office was simple yet effective. It could be described as any book lovers dream room with the added bottles of alcohol shoved behind the books highlighting Franks alcohol dependence. Sam Newland’s use of costume emphasises the development of Rita whilst simultaneously pulling focus to the decline of frank. Rita initially wears baggy jumpers and heels. As the story develops and Rita socially climbs she wears colourful affluent looking clothes. David Flynn’s use of sound in between scenes helps to drive the story forward.

A Theatre by the Lake, David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers production tour of Willy Russell’s
‘Educating Rita’ is heartwarming. The simplicity of the set and the subtlety of the direction only adds to the complexity of the characters and the plot. Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson are outstanding in these roles. Educating Rita by Willy Russell is a display of the hopelessness of man, he writes about the characters of the working class and in this case women’s role in society. This production is an excellent version of an already loved play.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Link for tickets-

Get your tickets for ‘Educating Rita’ at the Theatre Royal Glasgow via the link below:


Get your tickets for ‘Educating Rita’ at the Edinburgh King’s Theatre via the link below:


Written by Rebecca Donati