A MAJOR new stage production of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita will be coming to Salisbury this month.

Educating Rita tells the story of married hairdresser Rita, who enrols on an Open University course to expand her horizons, and her encounters with university tutor Frank.

Frank is a frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, who is less than enthusiastic about teaching Rita. But, Frank soon finds that his passion for literature is reignited by Rita, whose technical ability for the subject is limited by her lack of education, but whose enthusiasm Frank finds refreshing.

The two soon realise how much they have to learn from each other.

The play was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and played at the Warehouse Theatre, London in 1980, starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston. Julie Walters reprised her role in the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning film opposite Michael Caine.

It stars Stephen Tompkinson’s whose television credits include ITV’s Torvill & Dean, BBC’s The Split, DCI Banks, Trollied, Wild at Heart, Drop the Dead Donkey (British Comedy Award Winner for Best TV Comedy Actor) and Ballykissangel. And his film roles include Phil in Brassed Off. His theatre work includes Spamalot, Rattle of a Simple Man and Arsenic and Old Lace in the West End, Cloaca and A Christmas Carol (Old Vic), Art and Tartuffe (National Tours).

Jessica Johnson joins Tompkinson on stage. Her theatre credits include Call Me Mary Poppins, Goth Weekend, Kings and Queens, Each Piece and Anti-Gravity at the Live Theatre, Newcastle.

She previously played Rita in Rebecca Frecknall’s 2017 production of Educating Rita at the Gala Theatre, Durham. Her television credits include Wire In The Blood (ITV), Coronation Street (ITV) and Cuckoo (Channel 4).

Educating Rita is produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers, and co-produced by Theatre by the Lake.

Willy Russell’s other writing credits include the Olivier Award-winning musical Blood Brothers, and play Shirley Valentine, which won the Olivier Awards for Best New Comedy and Best New Actress, and a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.

The production runs at Salisbury Playhouse from June 17 to 22.

Tickets: 01722 320 333.