The Humour in Educating Rita

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The Humour in Educating Rita

‘Educating Rita’ is a humorous play that was written by Willy Russell

in 1979, based on his own life. It is set in Liverpool and depicts the

perseverance of a working class, 26-year-old hairdresser with no

qualifications called Susan, or as she is called throughout the play,

‘Rita’, as she tries to ‘discover herself’ by participating in an

English literature course at the Open University. Her lecturer, who is

from a more middle class background, Frank, is somewhat of an

unorthodox one; he is frequently found to be drunk and, during one

lecture, he is so drunk that he falls off of the rostrum in the hall!

This erratic behaviour leads to him being sent to Australia for two

years. In this essay, I am going to discuss how I might direct this

play so that I achieve humour for the audience.

There are four main aspects that create the humour in the play

Educating Rita’: the first of which is the comedy of the character.

This is when a character in the play is perceived as being humorous by

the way that the character speaks or a trait that the character has.

When Rita enters Frank’s classroom in the first scene, she blurts out:

“I’m coming in, aren’t I? It’s that stupid bleedin’ handle on the

door. You wanna get it fixed!”

As director, I would have the actress playing Rita fall through the

door and point towards Frank, as if to order him to fix the door. The

actor playing Frank would have to put on a stern face, looking in

disbelief at Rita; in shock at the way she entered.

Considering the fact that this is an interview situation, the audience

would be shocked, as the language is totally out of the blue and

inappropriate for such a formal situation. Also the fact that she


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...e rostrum- an action that

occurs because of his drunkenness. Along with Frank’s drinking, Rita’s

entrance to the play is an example of extremely effective comedy of

character. However, as the play progresses and Rita becomes more

aware and cognisant of her actions the comedy seems to derive from

Frank’s drunkenness.

There is much to be said as to how you would direct this play.

Personally I would involve more than just the two characters Frank and

Rita. This would give me as director, the chance to introduce more

humorous situations. Other occurrences that would possibly make the

play more interesting could be added to the play with the introduction

of extra characters. Willy Russell wrote this play to be performed,

but I must wonder why he wrote the play with only two characters if he

did eventually see the play being performed on the silver screen.
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