A GOBBY hairdresser and a demotivated, alcoholic tutor have a lot to teach each other in a two-hander at Salisbury Playhouse this week.

Set in 1980s Liverpool, Willy Russell’s Educating Rita is a story of class divide and wanting to better yourself.

Fed up with her working-class Liverpudlian roots, uneducated Rita is desperate to ‘sing a better song’, enrolling herself onto an Open University literature course.

Middle class academic Frank could have been a respected poet, but has descended to a less-than-willing tutor, preferring to drown his sorrows in a bottle.

Jessica Johnson’s Rita exudes positivity and enthusiasm. Her performance becomes increasingly engaging and moving as the play progresses. She commands the laughs from the audience as she barrels into her tutor’s office each week with enlivening wit.

Stephen Tompkinson portrays the self-loathing academic Frank with appropriate morosity and humour.

The two characters both have lessons to learn and find a mutual respect and admiration for each other.

Directed by Max Roberts, the fast-moving play is entirely set in Frank’s study.

The set, designed by Patrick Connellan, consists of a mahogany desk, leather chairs and bookshelved walls - providing plenty of space for Frank to hide his booze.

It’s an inspirational play with an underlying message that with education comes choices. And at the end of the play, we find Rita in a position to make her own life choices.