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
gives an order to a person that she is meeting for the first time may
be perceived as being amusing, again because it is just so unexpected.
Another instance of comedy of character is apparent in the first
scene. Rita says:
“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 on
forever because the poor sod on the other side won’t be able to get
The actor playing Frank would have to portray annoyed feelings towards
Rita as she is saying this in a sarcastic manner towards him. The
audience would find this particularly humorous, as the character’s
personalities are completely different; Frank being rather
professional and Rita being an amateurish student.
The second aspect that creates humour for the audience is that of the
comedy created from a certain situation, this is where an event occurs
in a place that you would not expect it to. An example of this is in
act two, scene three when we are told that Frank was teaching a class,
clearly under the under the influence of alcohol, resulting in him
falling off of the rostrum. Although we don’t actually see Frank fall
off in the play, Russell uses imagery to create...