Search

Willy Russell’s iconic Educating Rita comes to Hornchurch’s Queen’s Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 April 2017

Danielle Flett and Ruairi Conaghan star in Queen's Theatre's new production of the popular Educating Rita. Picture: Mark Sepple

Danielle Flett and Ruairi Conaghan star in Queen's Theatre's new production of the popular Educating Rita. Picture: Mark Sepple

Archant

The narrative concept of a young working-class girl seeking the wisdom of an older, intellectual male, with both learning vital lessons about life and love, is a familiar one on the stage and screen.

Danielle Flett and Ruairi Conaghan star in Queen's Theatre's new production of the popular Educating Rita. Picture: Mark Sepple Danielle Flett and Ruairi Conaghan star in Queen's Theatre's new production of the popular Educating Rita. Picture: Mark Sepple

My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, is an obvious example, beloved since its triumphant 1956 Broadway opening and Audrey Hepburn’s iconic performance, as is Educating Rita, the heartwarming tale of a professor and a gobby hairdresser which catapulted Julie Walters into the limelight in the 1980s.

Willy Russell’s play, and the screen adaptation, have charmed audiences ever since, and a new production at Hornchurch’s Queen’s Theatre is set to be a highlight of its spring season.

Danielle Flett and Ruairi Conaghan star in the play, running from April 22 to May 13, with both performing at the Billet Lane venue for the first time.

The Recorder caught up with the pair to discover their thoughts on stepping into some iconic pairs of shoes.

“It’s such a joy to be playing Rita,” said Danielle, 27. “She’s such a famous character and so I’m very excited.

“She’s just a force and so strong, I feel very lucky to be playing her.”

Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. Picture: Mark Sepple Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. Picture: Mark Sepple

“It’s a wonderful play,” added 50-year-old Ruairi. “It’s really enjoyable to explore the characters, it goes into much more depth than the film.”

Educating Rita is the brainchild of playwright Willy Russell, whose other work includes Blood Brothers and Our Day Out.

Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, it premiered at London’s The Warehouse in summer 1980, with Walters reprising her role in the 1983 Bafta-winning film, for which Michael Caine came on board as professor Frank Bryant.

Frank is an Open University academic, disillusioned, often seeking solace in the bottle, whose world is turned upside down by the arrival of vivacious 26-year-old Rita, who hopes education can propel her out of her unfulfilling life.

Rita’s influence rekindles Frank’s love for literature, and the pair embark on a surprising, and moving, journey, which leaves both of them changed.

“I actually saw the film for the first time when I was at school and fell in love with Julie Walters and Rita,” said Danielle.

Ruairi Conaghan stars as Frank in Queen's Theatre's new production of Educating Rita. Picture: Mark Sepple Ruairi Conaghan stars as Frank in Queen's Theatre's new production of Educating Rita. Picture: Mark Sepple

“Rita and Frank are in two different worlds, she’s never met anyone like him.”

The play offers a more intimate experience than the film, as Rita and Frank command the stage alone, in his study. This means the actors, who were in their third week of rehearsals at the time of the interview, really will be kept on their toes for two hours.

“There’s so many lines,” laughed Ruairi. “When you get to my age that becomes a real challenge.”

“I think it’s always a challenge,” added Danielle. “I’m not finding it any easier. It’s a hell of a lot of lines, but we’ll get there.”

The Queen’s version, directed by Rosalind Philips, is still set in the 1980s, but the setting has been moved from Liverpool to Essex, with some small changes in dialogue nodding to that.

Just as Rita’s experiences echo those of Russell – who left school at 15 with one O-level before returning to education and becoming a teacher – so do they resonate with Danielle.

Educating Rita's leading lady Danielle Flett. Picture: Mark Sepple Educating Rita's leading lady Danielle Flett. Picture: Mark Sepple

“I’ve had a very similar upbringing to Rita,” she said. “I didn’t have a good education, didn’t go to a very good school, so a lot of it rings true.

“But at the same time it’s the ‘80s, it was very different then. She’s 26 and married, it’s about getting married, having a baby and going to work, and she wants to break out of that. She’s a massive female role model.”

“Young people crave an opportunity to be educated and particularly if they are from the working classes, can struggle because that isn’t provided for them,” added Ruairi. “So I think the play is very relevant today.”

Educating Rita runs at Queen’s Theatre from April 22 to May 13. Ticket prices range from £12.50 to £19 for previews, and £18 to £29 for other dates.

Visit queens-theatre.co.uk or call 01708 443333.

Latest Romford News Stories

58 minutes ago

A Rainham pub which had its licence suspended following police reports of serious disorder will have its appeal against the decision finally decided this morning, Monday, November 20.

Yesterday, 15:00

Just 130 years ago, Hornchurch was a quaint town with gabled houses, says Prof Ged Martin

Moped gangs and knife crime often go hand-in-hand – and are among the gravest fears of residents in Havering.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Did you know that when you can’t see the Moon in the sky, he’s actually down here on earth, suited and booted and fighting crime?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Shortage of daylight makes us grumpier

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our three-minute Met Office video forecast.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Havering has thrown its hat into the ring for the Mayor of London’s Borough of Culture initiative and residents can play a part.

Friday, November 17, 2017

As families gather around their sofas to watch this year’s Children in Need, a hospice wishes to say thank you to the charity for all of its support over the years.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now