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Thread: Willy Russell

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    Default Willy Russell

    Famous playwright Willy Russell had his first success in 1974 with his play ,'John, Paul, George,Ringo and Bert.'

    He had continuing success with tv plays, 'Our Day Out', 'Daughters Of Albion,' 'One For The Road' etc.

    'Educating Rita' won 3 major theatre awards for him and a film of that play soon followed.


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    Willy Russell has had on-going success with his award winning musical 'Blood Brothers'
    Last edited by Kev; 06-01-2006 at 12:46 PM.

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    Liverpool playwright Willy Russell talks about the setting of Educating Rita being transferred from Liverpool to Cardiff and why the play is still so popular.



    Do you think Educating Rita will work in a Cardiff accent?

    “The play has had to survive for a quarter of a century in all kinds of different languages. I mean what they do to it in Estonia, Korea and Japan where there’s been very long running productions. They play the play as it is set in Liverpool. I haven’t got the first idea of what they’re doing to find an equivalent of that kind of Liverpool working class street language.”
    Are the ‘Ritas’ of this world more likely to go theatre these days?

    “This is difficult for me because I’ve worked in and still to some extent live in a city where we theatrically we actually deliberately went out of our way to get a broad based popular audience. To attract people who would not normally go to the theatre. People like I had been before I was about 19 years of age. And we did that especially at the Everyman and late on to some extent at Liverpool Playhouse.”

    “What you can’t do is just put on a play, and because it refers to some aspect of working class life, expect that an audience therefore will come flocking through the doors. They won’t.”

    Since it opened Educating Rita has never been out of production somewhere in the world. Why is it so universal?

    “Most people tend to think it was commissioned by a Liverpool theatre, but it wasn’t. It was commissioned by Walter Donohue for a then experimental London home which was the Warehouse.

    “When we opened, the very first preview at the Warehouse, where it was only booked in for 17 performances, Mike Cochran and I were having a drink in the pub opposite there at about 6.30 and there was a queue outside the warehouse. We just couldn’t believe this was happening, there’d been no publicity for it. But that seemed to set the pattern for this play. Wherever it plays it just seems to connect. And it’s gone on and on.”

    And it’s about class, but also education?

    “Absolutely. That’s central to every people, every culture. The line that I always use with that is that great Paul Simon line “The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly in to our hearts and our bones.”

    “That’s at the centre of the appeal. You can’t write a play trying to tap in to that. One is just kind of fortunate enough I suppose occasionally to touch something that is in the air at the time.”

    In terms of education, it’s all different now?


    “I wrote the play only a few years after having had to really go through a struggle to get back in to mainstream education myself. I’d left school without doing O-levels or A-levels or anything like that. And when I tried to get back in, I just met a stonewall of absolute resistance.

    “Now the idea of continuing education…it’s a given. So in one sense you could say that ‘Rita’ is something of a history play. And in particular terms it is. But as I say I think that because of that wider thing of everybody recognising a certain heroism in somebody who tries to make life better, is what keeps it a current play.”

    And the class element has also changed?


    “One has to say that the class situation in Britain at the time that I wrote Educating Rita was a very different class landscape than class in Britain today. It’s a very different type of class. But I think what is universal and ongoing, is that education still affords one the power to change ones life.”

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