Achieving Humor in Educating Rita by Willy Russell

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Achieving Humor in Educating Rita by Willy Russell

Written by Willy Russell in 1985, "Educating Rita" is a comical

interpretation of his own life as a young Liverpudlian hairdresser and

his aspirations to become educated. The play is based on Rita, the

hairdresser who wants a better life, and begins this adventure by

enrolling in an Open University course. It is here she meets her

tutor, Frank. You could say, the key to her dreams. If I were to

direct this play, I would seek to achieve humour for an audience by

exploring the different aspects of comedy; comedy of character, comedy

of situation, comedy of misunderstanding and comedy of language.

There are many examples of comedy of character in this play,

especially as Russell has created such strong and impressionable

characters. Rita, the quick tongued, outspoken, witty character is a

foundation for humour as she isn't afraid to speak her mind.

An excellent example of her humorous character is Rita's first meeting

with Frank, her soon-to-be tutor. As she enters his office, she

notices a risqui picture on the wall and is unable to resist

commenting on how "It's very erotic." and defending her opinion by

saying "there's no suppose about it," and using the imperative, "Look

at those tits." The audience should find this humorous as it is as

they would be shocked at her sudden outburst to an 'authority figure'

in the play. However, in order to achieve maximum humour for the

audience, I would emphasize Rita's Liverpudlian accent and Rita would

speak naturally to show her openness and her self-confidence. Frank's

reaction to Rita's outburst is also vital if humour is to be achieved.

Frank is rather unsettled by Rita's confidence and to show this, his

reaction should be delayed and confused to show his inability to keep

up with Rita's quick tongue. It is imperative that this scene gives

the audience the impression that this play is humorous, as it is the

first time the audience meets the characters.

Frank's attitude towards Rita is another good example of comedy of

character. As a tutor in an university, the audience would expect

Frank to be very formal, however, he isn't in this situation. Frank

reveals his comic personality to the audience as he discusses a window

in his office to Rita. He tells her that he "sometimes get an urge to

throw something through it usually a stu...

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dramatically. "Sod them - no, fuck them!" This shows how similar Frank

and Rita can be no matter how well educated of high class Frank is. In

order to maximise humour, Frank would be excessive and over the top to

show the effect of alcohol on Frank.

Comedy of situation is used throughout the play and is used with

different aspects of comedy, such as when Rita first entered Frank's

office at the beginning of the play and Rita's use of language. It is

difficult to have comedy of situation on its own, so I would do what

Russell did, combine it with another aspect for maximum comedy effect.

Willy Russell has used every aspect of comedy to their full advantage

and has achieved highlighting class differences through comedy. When

Russell wrote the play, he wrote it to be performed and wrote stage

directions too. Personally, I would not change that because that is

the way he intended it to be, but I would concentrate on body

language, facial expressions and how they talk, e.g. the tone. So, if

I were directing 'Educating Rita' I would seek to achieve humour for

the audience? Simply by exploring the different aspects of comedy that

Willy Russell has used so well.
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