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Stephen Tompkinson as Frank and Jessica Johnson as Rita in Educating Rita at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall (Photo: Lynn Batten)

Willy Russell’s Educating Rita sees huge demand for tickets and adds extra performance

Published 21 August 2020

With performances almost sold out within two weeks of going on sale, Olivier and Tony Award-winning producer David Pugh and Zoe Curnow, Executive Director of the Minack Theatre, added an extra performance to the two-week run of the acclaimed 40th-anniversary production of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall.

Performances began on Tuesday 18 August and the season now runs until Sunday 30 August. The production, which has the audience socially distanced, stars Stephen Tompkinson (Spamalot, Rattle of a Simple Man and Arsenic and Old Lace in the West End) as Frank and Jessica Johnson as Rita (Wire In The Blood (ITV), Coronation Street (ITV) and Cuckoo (Channel 4)) and is directed by Max Roberts. Check out the stunning production images below!

David Pugh said of the ticket sales: “Live theatre is back and audiences have proved they want it back… There has been a wholeheartedly enthusiastic response from everyone and this has proved that, with Churchillian spirit, as a producer, it’s my job to entertain audiences wherever and whenever and I can’t think of a better way than with a great British comedy by Willy Russell.”

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 production was originally 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.

Find out more about the production by clicking here.

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