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20th Century Drama - Educating Rita by Willy Russell.

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Introduction

20th Century Drama - Educating Rita by Willy Russell Educating Rita is a play by Willy Russell exploring the relationship between Open University tutor Frank and his lively, ambitious student Rita who wants to become an educated woman and "know everything". Frank and Rita's relationship inevitably changes throughout the play. Between the first and last scenes Rita changes considerably into someone Frank thinks he can hardly recognise. At the beginning of the play Rita is a twenty-six-year-old working class woman who lives on an estate in Liverpool. She conveys her social setting in her speech, being very direct and straightforward. "This was the pornography of it's day...do you think it's erotic?" (Act 1, scene 1) She is bubbly, chatty and flamboyant. Rita has higher expectations than the majority of her class and is angered when she believes that her class is not represented accurately. "An' like the worst thing is that y' know the people who are supposed to like represent the people on our estate, y' know the Daily Mirror an' the Sun, an' ITV an' the Unions, what are they tellin' people to do? They just tell them to go out an' get more money, don't they...The Unions tell them to go out an' get more money an ITV an' the papers tell them what to spend it on so the disease is always covered up." (Act 1, scene 4) Her job as a hairdresser reflects her class and her marriage is very rocky. ...read more.

Middle

"I'm comin' in aren't I? It's that stupid bleedin' handle on the door. Y' wanna get it fixed." (Act 1, scene 1) This conveys that she is direct, extrovert and vivacious. We can tell Rita is different from Frank's other pupils from his surprised and vaguely stunned response to her entrance. She is unique; set far apart from the other students. Rita is enthusiastic about everything in Act 1, scene 1. She is particularly entranced with Frank's window. "I love this window...do you like it?" "I don't often consider it, actually." (Act 1, scene 1) This piece of symbolism has a significant quality to it that enhances Frank's cynical, bored and stifled personality. Throughout the play Rita gazes out at the students through the window, as though there is a barrier between her and what she wants to become. It also symbolises that she is constantly looking ahead and planning a better future for herself. If we study this further we could liken Rita to a bird wanting to leave the nest and join others with whom she is socially compatible. Frank, however, pays little attention to the window. Until he meets Rita he prefers his office - like his personality - to be stale. It is Rita who adds humour and joy to Frank's life. Frank, who views Rita as positive and invigorating - "the first breath of fresh air that's been in this room for years" - in direct contrast, views himself very negatively. ...read more.

Conclusion

(Act 2, scene 5) This passage seems unnatural coming from Rita. She stutters and stumbles, no longer having her own opinions because she is so impressed with Trish's. She emulates Trish and uses her flatmate's opinions instead of her own, invoking Frank's revulsion. At the end of the play both Rita and Frank have come full circle. Frank has become more light-hearted and Rita is showing signs of her old self when talking about Tiger. "He's a bit of a wanker really." (Act 2, scene 7) Rita's comment about Tiger shows that she is aware, whatever Frank may think, of his self-obsession. She now knows what an educated lifestyle is like; she knows what wines, books and clothes to buy. Most importantly, she is now an independent woman with choice. She has got back what Denny, her friends and her family stole from her in her youth. At the end of the play when Rita is cutting Frank's hair, I would have a faded blackout and the sounds of birds singing to signify the symbolism of Rita being a bird leaving the nest. The window would be open to show how Rita has influenced Frank and, like the breath of fresh air she has been compared to, has made his life more bearable and full of light. The final impression we are left with, mysteriously, is that Frank and Rita's future is left entirely to our own speculation. Will Frank be happy? Will Rita ever be fully satisfied? The audience will never know, but the birds singing in the background and the sun shining through the open window can give hope. ...read more.

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