In my response to the question I will consider the way characters are presented and developed through the way language is used to show cultural differences and attitudes; the way stage directions is used to reveal deeper meaning and the way humour and pathos are used to engage and effect the audience. The playwright Willy Russell was born in Whiston, which is just outside of Liverpool. He is a working class playwright famous for setting his plays in Liverpool and also basing them on his own experiences of life.
Rita and Willy Russell have a similar life story. When Willy was a young boy he when to a number of different schools and colleges, he didn’t succeed in school that well and didn’t leave school with many qualifications just like Rita. After leaving school Willy had a number of jobs, he used to clean oil from girders in a factory called ‘Fords’ and was also a hairdresser the same as what Rita used to do before starting university. Willy Russell eventually when to college to study English Literature and writing but he had to have at least 5 O levels.
So he had to find a college that would let him take a full-time course, he found a college but there was no authority prepared to give him a maintenances grant or even pay his fees so he packed his job in at the hairdressers and worked at Fords for a while until he had enough money to go to college, after college he eventually ended up becoming a student teacher for a while. One of the most appealing features in the play ‘Educating Rita’ to readers and audiences alike is that it is very amusing play to watch and read. The thing that makes the play as funny as it is, is the way in which the two characters talk.
Even though the two characters, Rita and Frank don’t always pick up each other cultural references it makes the play even more amusing because it is like they are talking different languages. Rita speaks a very local Liver Publican language and also has a working class accent but in Act 2 Scene 2 she tries to change the way she talks but soon reverts back to her normal voice. On the other hand Frank Rita’s tutor speaks in Standard English. Rita’s irreverent speech is used as a source of humour and also the interplay and repartee between her and Frank.
In the play ‘Educating Rita’ there are only really two main characters, Rita and Frank but as the play goes on there are a few other characters mentioned including Denny Rita’s husband, Julia Franks partner and also Trish Rita’s flatmate who attempted to kill herself. From the beginning of the play Frank comes across as a tutor that doesn’t really care about his students, as he would rather get drunk than teach. When Rita comes to see Frank for the Open University she is very loud and excited and in the end Frank tells her he doesn’t want to teach her anymore because he is a rubbish teacher.
But Rita being Rita persuades him to teach her and Rita starts getting somewhere with her education. But Denny Rita’s husband hates the fact she is going to university in the first place and when he finds out Rita has been lying to him about being on the pill he gets all her books and exams and burns them on a fire in the garden, When Denny did that Rita decided she didn’t want to be with him anymore so she left him. Since Rita has left Denny she has started to develop more as a person as well as develop more in her education.
Rita’s life has changed a lot as she has been going to summer school to study more, as well as living in a flat with one of her friends. As the play goes on Rita develops even more as a person and in the final few scenes Rita passes her exams and embarks on new stages of her life. But on the other hand Rita is devastated as her tutor Frank leaves for Australia because he has upset the university authorities once to often. But with Rita successfully passing her exams she can take charge of her own life and start to make her own decisions.
Rita at the start of the play is a normal girl from Liverpool who has a great sense of humour. From the play you don’t get to know a lot about Rita’s background but it does tell us she is a hairdresser and lives with her husband Denny and also wants to succeed in her education. So she can life a better life. The way in which Rita speaks is a very common Liver Publican accent that she tries to change halfway through the play but soon reverts back to her normal accent. Because Rita speaks very colloquially and Frank speaks Standard English it is like they are talking to each other in a different language.
Even though Rita comes across as a bit stupid in the play she isn’t really as in Act 1 Scene 1 Rita says to Frank about the erotic picture on the wall. ‘I’ll bet he did y’ know. Y’ don’t paint pictures like that so that people can admire the brush strokes. ‘ Here Rita is indicating to Frank that the picture is pornography. Rita wants to study so she can become more educated and culturally aware as the play goes on Rita changes her life completely and she gradually becomes absorbed by culture and literature and is heading for that success she has always wanted in her life.
Rita’s relationship with her husband Denny isn’t really the good. The problem with Rita’s relationship with Denny is that Denny hates the idea that she is going to university to study literature and all he wants is for her to have a baby, but Rita doesn’t want one until later in life. When Denny finds she is still o the pill he goes and gets all her books and burns them all. After that Rita decides to leave him for good so she can concentrate on her education. The reason Rita is dissatisfied with her relationship with Denny is because Denny is depriving her of the education she really wants just for a baby.
In Act 1 Scene 1 when Rita is trying to get into Franks office she is so determined to get in she pushes and pushes the door until it opens and when she emerges the first thing she says to Frank is ‘ I’m comin in aren’t I? it’s that stupid bleedin handle on the door. You wanna get it fixed. ‘ Frank replies ‘… Erm yes, I suppose I always mean to… ‘ Rita bites back saying, ‘ Well that’s no good always meanin to, is it? Y should get on with it; one of these days you’ll be shoutin ‘come in’ an’ it’ll go on forever because the poor sod on the other side wont be able to get in.
An you wont be able to get out. ‘ Here Rita is trying to get a point across to Frank telling him she is determined to succeed. In the next scene, scene 2 Rita brings a can of oil with her to oil the door so it is easier for her to get in this tells the reader and audience that she is doing this so she can get into her education easier and so she is willing to go to any extremes to succeed. Humour is used in Act 1 Scene 2 to engage the audience and to mask serious issues. The key theme in ‘Educating Rita’ is education.
Rita feels that the education she received at school was ok as in scene 2 she says to Frank. ‘They tried their best I suppose, always telling us we stood more of a chance if we studied. ‘ The only reason Rita didn’t study was because she would have become different from her mates and she say in the scene ‘that’s not allowed’. Rita’s essays are different to other students because not only do the other students revision at home for hours they also write their essays at home to but Rita on the other hand revisions at work and writes her essays out at work as well because of her husband Denny.
As well as all that Rita’s essays are very short compared to everyone else’s at the university and also they don’t hold that much information on what she is writing about. In Act 1 Scene 6 Rita is so influenced by the play ‘Macbeth’ she went to see and the books she had been reading so goes to see her tutor Frank to tell him the good news, she says, ‘ I had to come an tell y, Frank, last night I went to the theatre. A proper one, a professional theatre’. She also reads him a bit of speech from the book. ‘ Macbeth … out, out, brief candle Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is herd no more. Its is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing. ‘ Rita is starting to change a lot as a person as well as developing her education. She is more focus on what she is doing now unlike earlier on in the play when she couldn’t get on with what she was doing because of Denny. Also she is not coming across as stupid like she was in the beginning because she is starting to grow up more. Pathos is used in scene 5 to make us feel sympathy for Rita. ” Denny found out i was on the pill again; it was my fault I left me prescription out.
He burnt all my books. This is meant to effect the audience emotionally even though we do not see the events on stage, the actresses playing Rita would show how hurt and angry she was. For a lot of the audience the idea of burning books would be horrible, it links to historic repression should as under the Nazi and in books like Fahrenheit 417. It makes me feel angry on Rita’s behalf. Her husband is trying to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do yet, this makes her feel more and more trapped and only free when she goes to college.
Rita’s relationship with Frank is helping her develop. “I’ve begun to find me an’ it’s great y’ know, it is Frank. It might sound selfish but all I want for the time bein’ is what I’m finding’ inside me”. He makes her think about things and they talk together in a way she cant talk to Denny. It is different however to a normal student/tutor relationship there is always only the two of them on stage, this creates an intensity to their relationship: You get the feeling Frank is becoming interested in Rita romantically.
Even though nothing happens Rita’s education is affecting her relationship with her husband and other members of her family. ” I just explained to him how I had to do his. He said it’s warped me. He said I’d betrayed him”. Rita wants to continue her education but her family are putting pressure on her to give it up. This builds up to a crisis in the play when Rita must chose between her education or her relationship with her family.
Rita’s comments are very strong about her choices, in the play she talks to Frank her tutor very aggressively trying to get her point across, trying to tell him she doesn’t want to be the Rita that is charming, delightful and funny she wants to be like Frank and his friends that talk seriously and takes life seriously not someone that is there to make other people laugh. Even though in scene 7 Rita is tempted to go back to her old ways when she see her family in the pub enjoying themselves but Rita sticks with her education and this forces her to make difficult decisions involving her family. ”
I got home from work and he’d packed me case. here Rita is telling Frank that Denny has kicked her out of her home because of her carrying on with her education and not wanting a baby, even though Rita has the option to go back to him and start a new life with a baby she doesn’t she decides to carry on with her education and try and make something out of her life before it is to later for her. I think that the audience would have responded to Rita’s decision to leave her husband in Rita’s favour because of how badly Denny treat her when they were together. He burnt her books, screamed and shouted at her and also threw her out the house because she wouldn’t have a baby.