memories of the ’80s – Educating Rita

This view of university was first shown on stage and then was interpreted for the big screen: Educating Rita.

Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London from Willy Russell, the play debuted at The Warehouse in 1980 starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston.

Walters played Rita, a Liverpool hairdresser who begins a relationship with Dr. Frank Russell played by Kingston, a university lecturer. Rita initially takes a class in literature and Frank becomes her tutor.

As the two grow closer, their relationship reveals the prejudices and beliefs of each other and how their judgments and assumptions start changing each other.

In 1983, Lewis Gilbert, produced and directed the screen adaptation of the play, debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine, the film follows the same path, showing how both grow and change, overcoming social class and society constrictions.

Although the film received mixed reviews, it won three BAFTA Awards, two acting awards at the Golden Globes for Walters and Caine as well as was nominated for three Academy Awards, including an adaptation nomination for Willy Russell and best actor and actress nominations.

Made for a small budget of just over US$6 million at Trinity University in Dublin, the film went on to gross over US$14 million, as viewers appreciated the story of Rita and Frank, and how they learn from one another.

As a commentary on the world of university, this play and film showed how assumptions and prejudices can be overcome, and everyone can become better, no matter where they think they currently stand.

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About Waheeda Harris

A pop culture junkie with a penchant for exploring our planet.
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