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Stephen Tompkinson & Jessica Johnson in Educating Rita

Major new stage production of Willy Russell's Educating Rita to star Stephen Tompkinson

David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers and Theatre by the Lake are delighted to announce that a major new stage production of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita will tour the UK in 2019. Starring Stephen Tompkinson as Frank, and introducing Jessica Johnson as Rita, the play will be directed by Max Roberts.

Educating Rita visits The Lowry in Salford from Tuesday 30 April until Saturday 4 May.

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.

The play 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.

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 Lac’e in the West End, ‘Cloaca’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Old Vic), Art and Tartuffe (National Tours).

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).

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.

Educating Rita will have set and costume designs by Patrick Connelan, lighting design by Drummond Orr and sound design by David Flynn.

Educating Rita is produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers, and co-produced by Theatre by the Lake.