The playwright has that rare ability to blend sadness, sentiment, passion and humour together in order to produce outstanding passages guaranteed to stir emotions and provoke thoughts on often controversial or little discussed subjects. The obvious comparison is the film version starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine, both of whom won awards for their performances as Rita and Frank, but in fact the work was originally a highly successful stage play which premiered in June at The Warehouse in London. Susan, or Rita as she prefers to be known, is a working-class lass from Liverpool, hell bent on improving her social and educational skills, who takes an Open University course in English Literature. Enter Frank, a drunken, depressed, middle-aged lecturer who is less than happy about taking on a student who he has already decided is a waste of space and time. This is a two-hander and so the need to engage the audience from the off is imperative. No disappointments here, as Jessica Johnson in the title role allows her character to grow and evolve during the course of the play and offers a superbly natural performance, raising smiles one moment and then pricking tears in your eyes the next.
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Buy Study Guide Rita , a working-class woman in her twenties from Liverpool, arrives at the office of Frank , a late middle-aged professor at a university.
She is there to be tutored after having decided to return to school. Frank is on the phone with Julia , his younger, live-in girlfriend, saying he will be going by the pub after work but promises to be home later.
He is mostly good-humored but rather weary and prone to mild bitterness and sarcasm. Rita enters, loud and brash but charming. She points out a nude painting on the wall that Frank says he never looks at anymore, jokes with him, and states her opinions on various matters straightforwardly and without guile. Frank is amused and intrigued by her. He offers her a drink, and reveals his bottles hidden behind his books. She laughs that he needs a haircut but he insists he does not. Rita also tells him how she wants to improve herself but that her husband Denny does not understand what she is trying to do.
Frank agrees to teach her but is openly disillusioned with education and tells her once he is done that she should leave and not come back. He eventually tries to get rid of her but she tenaciously pursues him as her tutor.
Rita comes for her lessons. Frank has been drinking. He asks about her schools of her youth and she explains that people just argued and fought and never paid attention and anyone who wanted to learn did not fit in. She went along with everyone else but started to wonder recently if she was missing something.
She has trouble with the concept of criticizing something she likes. She then says she read a Forster book Frank had mentioned in their first meeting but hated it because he said within the book that he did not like poor people.
This incensed her, but Frank is amused and says she cannot look at the book in such a light. Rita, often scatterbrained and prone to non-sequiturs, asks Frank if he is married. He says he was once but no longer, as he was a failed poet and his wife wanted to give him new fodder.
This is perplexing to her. He says maybe he would not be so prone to disappearing from Julia if she was more like Rita. Rita laughs these comments off. The next time they meet, Frank is annoyed that Rita does not have her essay but eases up on her when she reveals Denny burnt all of her stuff because he was mad at her for not taking her birth control pill anymore and going back to school.
Rita explains to Frank how Denny feels betrayed, and how he thinks they already have choices in their lives. Frank tries to get her to talk more about this but she insists they need to return to studying. As time passes, Rita grows prouder of her interest in literary subjects and the theater.
She brags of going to see a Shakespeare play. One day Frank asks her to come to a dinner party Julia is giving; Rita agrees, but she does not show up.
She later tells Frank Denny did not want to go and she felt nervous, underdressed, and that she had brought the wrong wine. She begs Frank to keep teaching her, and to change her; she does not want to give up. He tells her she is already fine, but reluctantly agrees to do as she wishes. As time goes on, Rita becomes more and more like the other students. She gets a new flatmate, starts work at a bistro, and makes new friends with whom she travels and discusses literature; she also starts to speak properly.
Frank, however, is drinking more. His troubles with Julia remain, and he is wary of the changes he sees in Rita. One day Frank is incensed because the university suggested he take a sabbatical because of his drinking. She says he told her to be objective and to do her research and that she has done that; she claims he does not want her to have thoughts apart from his.
Frank is drinking more, and seems somewhat jealous of her new friends, especially a young man named Tyson. He and Rita are fighting more. He does, however, sign her up for her exam. After it is done she comes in and tells him that she wanted to write something snarky on it, but ended up answering legitimately.
She tells him she is still learning about life and that he was a good teacher. Frank is cynical and depressed. He is getting ready to go to Australia; Julia is not going with him. Rita pauses and then says she has something to give him.
Educating Rita Study Guide
Educating Rita Summary