Willy Russell's Play "Educating Rita"

Topics: Plays

Educating Rita is a play about a woman who is determined to get a liberal education which will open a full new life for her. Educating Rita was a play written by Willy Russell in 1985 and the play is set at a university in the North of England. There are many themes that run through the play including: Personal relationships, Educating, Contrasts and clashes of culture and Differences. Willy Russell was born in Liverpool from a working class background.

As a youngster Russell first was a hairdressers apprentice but later made and ran his own salon.

Only when Russell became an adult did he begin to think about further education. Now Russell is a very famous play write and novelist and has constructed many fine plays and novels throughout his career including: the blood brothers, our day out and many more. The leading characters in the play Rita follows Russell’s background we know this because Russell before himself was a hairdresser and then though about further education as does Rita.

The Play has only two characters Frank and Rita and only one setting; Franks office at the Open University. This unique feature of Russell’s play is very effective in building a relationship between the audience and his main characters. By having only two characters he allows the audience to fully engage themselves in the lives and personalities of each character and understand them in depth. Furthermore by have only two main characters this makes the whole play easier to follow and understand since having several characters can be confusing.

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Russell throughout the play gives us visual clues giving us a better description of the characters for example: as the scene unveils we see Frank is looking for something in his bookcase but we do not know what, he constantly takes the name famous writers and removes some books from the bookcase this makes the audience think what Frank is looking for; as frank retrieves his hidden whisky bottle from the bookcase the audience become eager to find out what influence the whisky bottle has on Frank’s life because he hides the bottle within his bookcase implying he doesn’t want people to see it.

Also the actions and dialogue of both the characters also give us clues about the characters personality as when Rita walks in she is swearing and shouting this implies she is not very mannered in addition as Rita walks in she goes to Frank’s desk a dumps her bag on a chair beside it without asking showing that she doesn’t not know how to behave when meeting her tutor for the first time.

Other characters are referred to like Julia who is Frank’s partner, Rita’s husband Denny and Trish Rita’s flat-mate but we never get to meet them, we only hear about them through Frank and Rita ; because of this Russell had to make the opening scene dramatically effective in order to engage the audience and to grasp their attention.

Russell does exactly this by using very effective language and makes detailed descriptions of the scene setting; Russell also makes the opening scene effective as he makes the entrance of the main character Rita very dramatic and also builds up tension and suspense and always keeps us the audience thinking of what is going to happen next in the life of both the characters. In Act one Scene 5 Frank is having a conversation on the phone to who we presume is his partner due to the language that Frank uses for example: “Darling”.

During this conversation learn that Frank’s relation with his wife is not the best of relations because he says that “Of course I told you… But darling, you shouldn’t have prepared dinner should you? Because I said, I distinctly remember saying that I would be late… Yes. Yes I probably shall go to the pub afterwards. By these words Frank is trying to explain to his partner that he shall be late and shall go to the pub afterwards this also implies that Frank doesn’t want to go home as his relation may not be going well.

Further in the conversation we find out that frank is only doing the Open University job because he needs money to go to the pub we know this because Frank says “oh god why did I take this on?… yes I suppose I did take it on to pay for my drink”. As the telephone conversation persists Frank begins to get annoyed” oh, for god’s sake, what is it? … Yes well-erm – leave it in the oven.

Look if you’re trying to induce some feeling of guilt in me over the prospect of burnt dinner you should have prepared something other than lamb and ratatouille” Frank now is irritated because of his partner trying to make him feel guilty that he is not coming home for dinner and she already has made it for him. Frank also tries to convince his partner that ratatouille cannot be burnt when he says “because darling I like my lamb done to the point of abuse and I even I know that ratatouille cannot be burned… Darling you could incinerate ratatouille and still it wouldn’t burn.

Frank and his partner continue to discuss the matter about lamb and ratatouille and Frank doesn’t stop clarifying his point as he is obstinate to go to the pub and not home first. “What do you mean am I determined to go to the pub? … I do not need determination to get me into the pub… Look; I’ll have to go… there’s someone at the door. Yes, yes I promise… Just a couple of pints … Four. From the ending of the conversation we learn that franks partner has given up trying to persuade Frank to come home and lets him do what he wants.

Frank’s sense of humour in the conversation is quite good as he jokes with his partner promising that he will only have a couple of pints Four, also he says that he will not need no determination to go to the pub . The one sided telephone conversation is also important because it tells us what Frank thinks about Open University students and about Rita and her attitudes before she arrives.

“Yes of course I’m still here … because I got this Open University woman coming, haven’t I? by saying this Frank implies that is staying at the university compellingly and not by his own will. Frank in the conversation also says “I shall need to wash away the memory of some silly woman’s attempts to get into the mind of Henry James or whoever it is we’re supposed to study on this course” By saying these words Frank has judged Rita as a silly woman who is trying to become a woman that knows a lot about the famous writer Henry James and he is really not bothered about the course as he cant even remember who he is teaching about.

This shows that frank is not really concerned about teaching people he again just needs the money to go to the pub. Rita is introduced very dramatically to the scene, as the door swings open and reveals Rita. As Rita walks into Frank’s office she is like a breath of fresh air since she changes Frank’s whole life. As Rita enters she is speaking very casually and in slang and swearing which doesn’t give a good first impression of her from Frank’s point of view. ” I’m comin aren’t I? It’s that bleedin handle on the door.

You wanna get it fixed” as Rita comes in using this kind of language Frank is quite confused and shocked as he maybe is thinking who is this woman who just walks into my office and is swearing and shouting. Furthermore the audiences get the first impressions of Rita of an unmannered and uneducated woman who maybe of a low class. Rita is the complete opposite of Frank in the sense she is loud, talkative and lively . As Rita walks in she dumps her bag next to Frank’s desk on a chair without asking this shows that Rita has not got the common decency to first introduce herself and wait till she is said to sit down.

Also this shows that Rita does not know how to act in an formal interview situation as we would expect her to appear submissively and formally, may be shy but Rita does the complete opposite by being loud, cheeky and informal. Examples of this include: When she asks Frank if she can smoke inside his office and before Frank had a chance to answer she already took the cigarettes out in addition she asks Frank if he would like one as well trying to calm the situation and to relieve the tension.

Rita is also confused in the way Frank speaks English in a formal way we learn this by when Frank asks Rita “You are? ” then Rita replies “What am I? Due to the lack of formal English known by Rita she is unable to understand what Frank is trying to ask and still doesn’t after Frank asks her twice. Rita isn’t really sure how to act in the interview also her insecurity and anxiety makes her appear in such a loud and bold manner. The way Rita talks about the door handle incident shocks both the audience and frank this is because Frank tries to explain ” ERM-Yes, I supposed I always mean to … as Frank is explaining to Rita, Rita again shows herself up as being, a ill-mannered as she doesn’t let Frank finish his sentence and starts talking again . “Well that’s no good always meanin’ to, is it? Y’ should get on with it; one of these days you’ll be shoutin” Come in’ an’ it’ll go forever because the poor sod on the other side wont be able to get in. An’ you won’t be able to get out. ” This also shows that Frank is a very lazy person as he says that he always means to get it fixed but never does.

This incident also shows us that Rita is a very negative about life and always thinks about the worst in real life situations saying that one day a person wouldn’t be able to come inside the office and frank wont be able to leave it as the handle will broken. In the opening scene we learn that Rita is interested in her surroundings also Rita shows us how observant she is, carefully taking in everything around her, including the painting hanging on the wall that Frank says he hasn’t looked at for ten years.

Rita doesn’t realise that some topics are not very polite to talk about for example the pornographic picture on the wall but instead as soon she sees the picture, she immediately asks Frank, “Do you think its erotic? ” Rita also asks frank weather he thinks when the artist drew the painting did he want to turn people on and later answers her own question by saying “Y’ don’t paint pictures like that just so people can admire the brush strokes, do y'” She also frequently uses inappropriate words and comments, saying, “Look at those tits! as she doesn’t not know formal English and is used to speaking in slang. Also when Frank and Rita are discussing about the picture Rita says “This was the pornography of its day, wasn’t it? It’s sort of Men only isn’t it? But in those days they had to pretend that it wasn’t erotic so they made it religious didn’t they? Do you think its erotic” in this dialogue form Rita she asks many questions one after the other and then she also states why, showing her knowledge and her original ideas about the topic.

Frank on the other hand is not as concerned for his surroundings and doesn’t speak in much detail about the picture and generally agrees with Rita throughout the conversation maybe as he thinks it is an inappropriate topic that Rita wants to talk about. After asking a few times whether Frank thought the picture was actually erotic he replies “I think its very beautiful” “I didn’t ask Y’ if it was beautiful” “But the term beautiful covers the many feelings that I have about this picture, including the feeling that, yes it is erotic” after this we fully realise how much English Rita knows and till what depth.

Rita mentions and talks about many topics in the opening scene which reflect widely on her character and personality and she frequently refers to inappropriate pornographic books that she has read believing that it will make a good impression on frank showing him how educated she is . But little does she know that she is portraying the exact opposite and doesn’t understand what true and fine literature really is. After seeing such bright, thoughtful and original ideas from Rita, Frank is then scared that after she has done her course in English literature she will lose that touch and originality presently in her.

The contrast between Frank and Rita can be seen throughout the play and these together make the opening scene more effective and dramatic examples of this include: Rita is fairly defeatist towards the course, believing she isn’t intelligent enough, and be trying to the course and the end she wont be able to get her dream of being a middle class person above her family and friends. She calls the course, “Degrees for Dishwashers”, implying that Open University degrees are not looked upon very highly, and not as much valuable as a real degree. Rita is very negative about herself and always degrades herself thinking that she is not good enough.

Also when Rita asks if she can smoke she says that “everyone seems have to packed up these days they’re all afraid of getting’ cancer” “Are they? ” “You’ve got to challenge death an’ disease. I read this poem about fightin’ death…. After this conversation we realize that Rita is a challenging person and is not afraid of death but instead says you have to challenge it. During the conversation Rita mentions a poet that wrote the poem about fighting death.

“Ah-Dylan Thomas” “No Roger McGough” “Yes I don’t think I know the actual piece you mean … “I’ll bring you the book -its great” “Thank You” “You wont probably think its good” “Why? ” “It’s the sort of poetry you can understand”, from here were understand that Rita sees Frank as a very intelligent person who is high class and wont like poetry that you can understand, we also again see here an example of Rita degrading herself as she thinks that the poetry that she reads is not fine literature it is and just basic poetry. Rita and Frank are like complete opposites as we see Frank an OU lecturer who is a alcoholic and has drinking problems also we find out that Frank is a very lazy person and is quite inactive.

On the other hand we see Rita who is an ambitious 26 year old who is very lively and wants to achieve her objective in life of becoming a middle class citizen we also now that Rita is willing to accept and take aboard challenges that come her way. The opening scene is very important because it gives us the audience an immediate impression of Frank and Rita and the differences between them and the great culture clash the lies in between them. As Rita is more of the popular cultured and usually refers to that but on the other hand Frank refers more to high culture and corresponds to a person from an upper/ higher class.

An example of this can be seen when Frank and Rita are having a conversation and Rita asks Frank to explain what assonance is “What does assonance mean? ” “What? ” “Don’t laugh at me” “No. Erm- assonance. Well it’s a form of a rhyme. What’s, what’s an example- erm -? Do you know Yeats? ” “The wine lodge? ” “Yeats the poet” “No”. Here we see the culture clash between Frank and Rita as Frank refers to the poet Yeats as he is an English Literature lecturer and therefore has read the poems and studied them and thinks of Rita to know a little about him.

But Rita doesn’t recognize Yeats the poet and shows of being of more of a lower class by asking if it’s Yates the win lodge this shows us that Rita knows little or nothing about literature but knows about the popular wine lodge instead. By this misunderstanding between Frank and Rita there is a lot of humour caused as both are talking about to completely different things a poet and a wine lodge. Overall I think that the opening scene of the play is very effective and Willy Russell does a very good job of gaining the interest of the audience.

Willy Russell gains the interest of the audience in many ways including using visual devices e. g. the Franks hidden whisky bottle in the bookcase implying the he discreetly drinks and may have drinking problems. Also we see Russell use dialogues and actions from the characters to increase the effect and to make the opening scene more dramatic examples of this include when Rita dumps her bag on the chair beside Franks desk from here we find out that Rita is a unmannered person also when Rita smokes in Franks office from here we also find out that she doesn’t know how to act in a formal interview.

Russell makes the scene dramatic as well as informing us about the characters and the themes of the play he does this by constantly using different devices and techniques for example visual actions and dialogue and different situations and topics of conversations also make the opening scene effective.

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Willy Russell's Play "Educating Rita". (2017, Sep 22). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-educating-rita-4/

Willy Russell's Play "Educating Rita"
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