Educating Rita is a witty yet poignant look at a working class woman’s attempts to change her social circumstances through pursuit of an Open University qualification. Rita is a twenty-six-year-old working-class hairdresser, married to Denny and living round the corner from her family. She has enrolled on an Open University course in an attempt to discover herself and better her circumstances. Rita has realized that she is out of step with most of her family and friends as she is not prepared to settle for what she has already got. Her tutor is Frank, a frustrated poet and academic, who works as a lecturer at a university. He is an alcoholic and, to begin with, is less than enthusiastic about taking Rita on as a student. However, he is fascinated by her take on life and realizes that she has academic potential. Under his cynical guidance, Rita grows in confidence and understanding. After leaving her husband, Rita moves in with a fellow student and wholeheartedly embraces the bohemian, student lifestyle, much to Frank’s dismay. Frank cannot stand the pretentious, pompous attitudes of her new friends, but Rita does not understand his cynical reaction. With her newfound knowledge, Rita starts to distance herself from Frank, believing him to be bitter and unappreciative of his poetic talent. She becomes more arrogant and false in her behavior, even altering her accent to try and fit in with the middle class students. However, after her flatmate attempts suicide, Rita realizes how ridiculous her lifestyle has become. She takes her exam and passes with flying colors. After being reported for lecturing whilst drunk, Frank faces a forced two-year sabbatical in Australia. He and Rita part as friends, with the future unclear for both of them, yet full of possibilities. Educating Rita is one of Willy Russell’s best known plays, drawing on every emotion to produce a profoundly moving, yet also hilarious two-hander.
Educating Rita guide sections