The name of the play that I am doing this coursework on is called Educating Rita, it is written by Willy Russell. Willy Russell was born in Whiston, just outside Liverpool in 1947; he comes from a working class background. Before becoming a writer he was a ladies hairdresser, he worked extremely hard to become what he is today. His dad, at various times, worked in the mines, in a factory, ran a fish and chip shop and also ran a library-on-a-bicycle, transporting books in two suitcases strapped to the sides of his bike.
His mother worked in a warehouse. The fact that Russell came from a working class background is very similar to Rita, in his play, like Rita, Russell had a `low skill` life an many working class jobs, even hairdresser. Another similarity is that Russell grew up with mostly females around him; his mother, grandmother and his aunts. This had a big influence on his work and writing about women and class, again, this is similar to Rita’s character.
The play itself takes is for two characters and takes place in Frank’s office at the university, it is set in the late 70’s and early 80’s and is about a twenty six year old young wife called Susan White who wants to better herself by studying literature. Rita enrols herself into the Open University; her assigned professor is Dr. Frank Bryant, a man who prefers the company of Jack Daniel’s, a type of whiskey, to Jack London. His wife is cheating on him, and his life is going nowhere.
Frank is an unsuccessful middle-aged academic with a drinking problem who has no experience in teaching working-class students but who took on the project for the money. Rita is determined to go for her education, and she makes friends with students at the university and starts a relationship with Frank as a friend, they get on well together. Rita becomes conceited and indifferent, reverting to her old name of Susan. When Frank sees how much Rita has changed when she comes back from Summer school, their previously strong friendship deteriorates.
Frank is asked by the University to go teach in Australia, to get rid of him, after making a lecture while drunk. He asks Rita to come with him, but we do not know the outcome of this as the play ends in his study with Rita giving something back to frank, a haircut. The play begins by describing Frank, whose first impression is that he likes to drink allot, because in the first scene he is looking for a hidden bottle of whisky. We know straight away that he is a heavy drunk, “Where the hell…? Elliot? No… Dickens. ”
The fact that he hides the whisky behind famous authors and still cannot even remember where it is, shows how messed up he is, or he likes to hide the truth of being a drunk from himself. The phone call he receives next is from his wife, during this phone he shows his true feelings and how he responds to other people, argues about coming home late and then going to the pub after. Right after putting the phone down, he makes a nasty comment, “Yes, that’s it, you just pop off your head in the oven.
This shows that he does not like his wife or is not happy with her. A dramatic device used by Willy Russell would be the broken door hands; it could represent a number of things. Firstly it could just show that Frank is plain right lazy, and doesn’t want to mend it, or maybe he feels safe in his study and doesn’t want anyone invading his world. Most of the play takes part in here. The broken door handle, and Rita’s struggle to get through the door, could also represent her struggle in life – it won’t be an easy job attending Open University.
The erotic painting on the wall shows Rita and Frank’s different views, Frank sees it as a work of art, whereas Rita sees it for what it really is, Nudity. She also offers Frank a cigarette, after Frank says he gave up, she replied “I won’t tell”, so Rita is enforcing some of Franks bad habits, he likes this about her. Rita swears because she does not know what else to say, Frank doesn’t react to her language and likes it.
When Rita asks about assonance, Frank gives her a long answer which Rita then translates into her own language, both meanings are right but as they were brought up differently, Frank as a middle class quiet wealthy family and Rita in a poor part of Liverpool, in a relatively poor and uneducated family, they interpret things in different ways. Rita has a simpler way of looking at everything, for what it is. Later on in the play, Rita begins to learn and use new educated words, Frank’s had an impact on her, but he too starts to use some of Rita’s words so she is having a clear impact on him as well.
I believe Russell has hinted that Frank and Rita may get together to show what would happen in real life and to interest the reader about their relationship towards the end of the play, although they also have huge age differences, Rita is somewhere near the age of twenty five and Frank is in his fifties, old enough to be her dad. Rita needs Frank to achieve higher education, and Frank needs a new beginning, they get on perfectly, but this does not mean they would be good together.
The message of the play is, if you really want something, you must work hard and fight for it. This is what Rita had done throughout the play, even with her family laughing at her; in the end she got her degree after working for it. I think that Russell made his play a comedy to make the reader read on as its quiet a funny play in terms of humour, and also as a literary device. Such as when Rita lies about not using contraceptive pills and her husband finds them after smashing in the wall, or maybe even where she oils the door for Franks study.
The comedy used is meant to make us remember the statement throughout the play, Rita oiling the door could tell us that she is determined and a thoughtful person. I think that Russell is saying that your education is restricted by your class and upbringing. Not everyone attended university in those days; it was only educated rich people. Whereas today anyone can attend, and pretty much the same thing applies today, if you want something, just work for it, put in the effort and you shall be successful.