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Willy Russell is a playwright from Liverrpool, England. He grew up in a poor council estate and did not enjoy school. He became a ladies hairdresser after leaving education. He later returned to education and trained to become a lecturer while writing in his spare time.
Educating Rita is set in 1980's Liverpool and stars Rita, a twenty six year old hairdresser, and Frank, a University lecturer in his fifties. The play follows Rita's experience of becoming a mature student and the changes that occur in her life due to the choice and freedom that come with an education.
As you can see, Russell has had experience of both Frank and Rita's lifestyles and therefore draws on his own experiences. This makes the play very 'real', the characters are heartfelt and you can really empathise with their situations.
I studied this play as a mature student myself and was amazed at the sheer detail that went in to it. For instance, every book that Rita studies relates to her life at the time. When she reads Macbeth she learns about the literary meaning of the word 'tragedy'. At this time she is starring in her own little tragedy - She is so keen to learn that she cannot see that it is causing problems in her home life, particularly with her partner, Denny. This later results in the breakdown of her marriage.
The play then follows Rita build a new life for herself. She moves out, gains confidence and begins to understand the meaning of what she reads. Frank's life changes as well, although not for the better. I won't go any further as I don't want to give too much away but it is an extremely well written play and an enjoyable read.
I probably wouldn't have read it if I didn't have to study it, but I'm glad I did as I think that it is a more enjoyable piece than many other plays that are studied at the moment.
Overall, I would recommend this book. And if you don't like reading then watch the film starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, as it is just as good.