Choose scenes from the film that illuminates the text of Educating Rita by Willy Russell.
When the play was written there was still a cultural divide between the uneducated (as in no higher education) working class and the cultural and educated upper class but higher education was slowly being made available to the masses.
This was partly due to Open University (OU) with provided a university education to those who normally would have not been able to go due to employment or the fact that they might feel they wouldn’t fit in, like Rita, because of the cultural differences.
Rita feels she needs the education to fill her life, as she knows that something in her life is not right and so she turns to the part of her life she doesn’t have education and knowledge of culture- to fill the gap.
However, as we find out this is not necessarily what she is missing, but in her search for the education she finds a new Rita, she even changes her name back to Susan.
Susan is Rita’s real name, however when she started OU she changed it to Rita after Rita Mae Brown, someone who she thinks writes literature, but writes pulp-fiction stories, because at this time she thinks all books are literature- this shows the cultural difference.
The play Educating Rita by Willy Russell gained great popularity, especially during the early eighties. There has also been a movie made from it starring Julie Walters and the more famous Michael Caine.
As is so often the case, the movie was more elaborate with additional scenes, some of which were spoken of or retold by the actors in the play. The movie also included several actors while the play only featured two, Frank and Rita. In this essay, I am going to explore how the film illuminates parts of the text when performed on stage.
Although most of the details are small and subtle, they have a great impact on how the story is portrayed. The movie offers much more background information on other characters and events that are important to the story.
The play is much more restricted in the sense that a great many things are bound not to happen on stage, especially as there are only two characters. Nothing taking place outside Frank’s office can be seen by the audience. All action is then confined within the stage four walls. When Frank invites Rita to his home for dinner in the play the audience is not set up for suspension as to how it will turn out since they already know that whatever happens will not take place before them, but will be retold.
The movie is several extra scenes. Some of these scenes are in the play retold by the actors and some of them are not there at all. Scene three in act two begins with Frank cursing, “Sod them fuck them! Fuck them, eh, Rita? Neither Rita nor the audience has a clue as to who or what he is referring to. As the dialogue progresses the audience finds out that he is upset because the students reported him since he had been very drunk while giving his last lecture. The stage audience never gets to see the actual scene where this happens. In the film, the audience is treated to Frank staggering and slurring in front of the class. However, the stage audience is not given a fair chance to assess whether they accept Frank’s behavior and side with him, or if they think it serves him right to be reported.
Furthermore, I feel that this enhances the way how Frank acts when he is not with Rita, but with the other students, whom he doesn’t like, and doesn’t try to like. In Sc.3 Act.2 Rita asks Frank if he will be sacked and Frank tells her For dismissal it’d have to be nothing less than buggering the bursar, although this is funny at the time, the film illuminates this when, in Sc.7, Act.2. (or thereabouts as it is only mentioned in the book), Rita walks in on Frank packing away his books, when she asks why he says he was being sent away to Australia, Rita replies, Did debugger the bursar? Metaphorically. He replies. In the film you see Frank very drunk standing outside the bursar’s window, shouting at him – whiskey bottle in hand-until he falls asleep on the lawn of the university. This is very effective in the film and helps you build up the idea of Frank when he is drunk. In addition to this what is very effective is how the film shows Frank in the lecture hall, while drunk, and although he admits to being drunk, he says he couldn’t teach them if he were sober, and he tells Rita I might have fallen off my dear, but I went down talking-never missed a syllable what have they got to complain about? He seems to hate teaching the students so much he feels he must be drunk to teach them- this of course is not the case.
The fact that the stage audience meets with only two characters in the play is limiting in the sense that a lot of information is told from only one point of view. Denny, Rita’s husband strongly opposes her spending time on education. He wants her to have a baby and become a housewife and throughout most of the play, he is trying to make her quit what she is doing. In the play, Rita tells Frank that Denny has burnt all her books, and again the action is retold. Although Rita makes it sound bad when it is seen in the movie we get to see the anger and frenzy of Denny, which gives a much more clear background and perhaps a deeper understanding of Rita’s conflict with her husband.
In the play Rita talks about sitting in the pub while her family and Denny are singing along to a song on the jukebox and then her mum starts to cry and says Surely there are better songs to sing, I feel this is a turning point for Rita, that is never really shown in the staged play, it does, however, seem very significance when seen in the film, where you see Rita and her family in the pub, and then in another scene, you can compare it with what Rita sees when she invited to Franks house-party, which in the play you only hear about her being invited to and then the discussion afterward when Frank asks her why she didn’t come.
Also in the film, you see Rita beforehand when she is trying to decide what to wear, and she uses the mirror to picture herself as an educated person but sees that she is lost and she feels like a half-caste neither educated nor working class- this is also a turning point for Rita when she decides to become more cultured and to live a life like Frank.
These parts of the play show an under-pinning irony, where Rita wants what Frank has, Rita’s experience is deeply rooted in her working-class background, she thinks that being educated and cultured is when Shes got a room full of books. She knows what clothes to wear, what wine to buy, what plays to see, and what papers and books to read. (Sc.5 Act.2). Frank however says to this is that all you wanted? Have you come all this way for so very, very little? Rita says that although it is little to him, for her it opens up new opportunities, Frank refers back to when she is in the pub, wondering if there is a better song to sing and he says, Found a better song to sing? No-you’s found a different song- and on your lips, it sounds shrill and hollow and tuneless.
The Irony in this is that Frank has what Rita wants and Rita thinks she will be happy with this, but Frank even with all his culture- is still unhappy. She realizes that there is something she doesn’t understand, that in a way she is not free. She wants to change, wants a better way of living, but doesn’t know how to achieve it- this is why she is doing an OU course. She rejects her working-class origin and changes her name.