Monday 23rd November 2009
English Literature coursework
Task- Explore Act One of Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’- how does he make it dramatic and entertaining? Comment on the character of Rita, language and action; dramatic devices and the cultural context
Culture separates different classes. Russell clearly portrays this to the audience and highlights this theme throughout the play.
There are many ways that Russell tries to create comedy and visual humour. This is not always from the dialogue but the set and stage directions. “The walls are lined with books” hints to the audience that Frank is intelligent. The opening of the play instantly introduces this actor and his academic environment. It also hints to the audience that Frank is looking for something “E, e, e… Dickens” it’s then made clear with actions that Frank has an alcohol problem and this continues throughout the play. The whole opening is evolved around Frank. Next, the audience witness a phone call to his partner. The directions state that he is a man that “shifts a lot of alcohol”. The audience only hear Franks part in the conversation but the monologue reveals his secrecy about alcohol, and this confirms he is an addict.
This is a preview of the whole essay
The way that Rita enters Frank’s office has a maximum impact on the audience and emphasises the sort of character Rita is. Furthermore, the way that Russell has used effective stage actions to introduce Rita and this portrays what type of character Rita is, without the use of dialogue. Frank who is “staring, slightly confused” at Rita, is shocked by her personality and this creates even more comedy. It is clear to the audience that Rita is in an unfamiliar environment. Frank tries to talk to Rita but she replies with the words “what” and “what am I?” which hints to the audience that Rita doesn’t understand Frank. Also Rita notices a painting on the wall. She says “it’s very erotic”. Throughout the conversation Rita continues to use slang, which compared to Frank’s dialogue suggests to us that Rita doesn’t have the critical language required to discuss art or literature. An example of this is when Frank is thinking of an example of assonance, and asks Rita “do you know Yeats” and she replies “the wine lodge” which creates humour again through misunderstanding. This also emphasises the clash of cultures and possibly suggests that the working class would be more familiar with pubs. The audience find that Rita has changed her name. She used to be called Susan but changed her name to Rita because of her favourite author, Rita Mae Brown. The author wrote the book Rubyfruit Jungle which is a sexually explicit novel. This creates comedy but hints to the audience more about Rita. Rita begins to open up to Frank and talk about her life. We also realise that Rita works in a hairdressers. She explains how women come in everyday and they never have anything worth saying. It’s symbolic because it describes how Rita doesn’t want that anymore and that’s why she wants to have an education.
Opening and endings of scenes in ‘Educating Rita’ are very important as they add drama to the play. Scene two opens with Rita entering Frank’s office with a can of oil. This refers back to the door handle. She is fixing the door so that it’s no longer broken. This is symbolic because it’s like Rita fixing her life.
The end of scene three is emotive as Rita is told that her choice of books isn’t good. She has to think about what is suitable “reading material” for an exam.
Frank tells Rita that books like that are fine to read but not to mention in exams because of their nature. Throughout the conversation it doesn’t seem as though Rita understands Frank and believes he is insulting her because of what she reads. Although near the end of the scene Rita describes what Frank has said in her own way which is comical because she explains it in a very blunt manner.
The most dramatic ending is scene eight. It’s symbolic to Rita and her education. She describes about her family and how a life in the pub is enough for them. Her mother cries because they could have “sung better songs” in the pub. Rita is starting to realise what she wants and how she has to change her song. It’s emotional and has meaning to Rita and no one understands why she has to get an education but her. Russell highlights this perfectly and that’s why it has such an effect on the audience. Not everyone can fit in Rita’s life because she is going through this change in her life. One of these people is her husband, Denny. He will never understand the new Rita so they have to split. Frank is shocked as she isn’t really bothered about it and would rather carry on with her education and her essay. Rita doesn’t think that she can do it and knows that her essay wasn’t good enough. The audience understand Rita and her emotions so is a very dramatic ending to Act one.
Earlier in the play, there are parts in the scenes that are highlighted because they are symbolic to Frank and Rita. There is a window in Frank’s office that has never been opened before. Rita can see those people outside on the grass. It shows how she can see what she wants but can’t quite get there. That’s why she needs an education. This isn’t just symbolic for Rita but Frank as well. He has hardly ever opened the window and that shows how he hasn’t opened himself up to anyone.
As a present to Rita, Frank buys her a dress. It’s a kind gesture that symbolises Rita becoming a new educated woman. She promises that she wouldn’t buy herself any clothes until she has completed her journey. Before she didn’t feel that she could buy the right clothes because she wasn’t educated enough to make the right choice. This is upsetting for the audience to hear so adds drama to the play. Russell creates humour and drama at the beginning, throughout and at the end of the Act. His language is effective and used perfectly in the dialogue of both characters. We see Rita change throughout the play and we follow her journey and see her changes as a woman. As an audience we feel emotional towards Frank and Rita. Russell has created a perfect balance between drama and humour in the play Educating Rita.