Achieving Humor in Educating Rita by Willy Russell
Written by Willy Russell in 1985, "Educating Rita" is a comical
interpretation of his own life as a young Liverpudlian hairdresser and
his aspirations to become educated. The play is based on Rita, the
hairdresser who wants a better life, and begins this adventure by
enrolling in an Open University course. It is here she meets her
tutor, Frank. You could say, the key to her dreams. If I were to
direct this play, I would seek to achieve humour for an audience by
exploring the different aspects of comedy; comedy of character, comedy
of situation, comedy of misunderstanding and comedy of language.
There are many examples of comedy of character in this play,
especially as Russell has created such strong and impressionable
characters. Rita, the quick tongued, outspoken, witty character is a
foundation for humour as she isn't afraid to speak her mind.
An excellent example of her humorous character is Rita's first meeting
with Frank, her soon-to-be tutor. As she enters his office, she
notices a risqui picture on the wall and is unable to resist
commenting on how "It's very erotic." and defending her opinion by
saying "there's no suppose about it," and using the imperative, "Look
at those tits." The audience should find this humorous as it is as
they would be shocked at her sudden outburst to an 'authority figure'
in the play. However, in order to achieve maximum humour for the
audience, I would emphasize Rita's Liverpudlian accent and Rita would
speak naturally to show her openness and her self-confidence. Frank's
reaction to Rita's outburst is also vital if humour is to be achieved.
Frank is rather unsettled by Rita's confidence and to show this, his
reaction should be delayed and confused to show his inability to keep
up with Rita's quick tongue. It is imperative that this scene gives
the audience the impression that this play is humorous, as it is the
first time the audience meets the characters.
Frank's attitude towards Rita is another good example of comedy of
character. As a tutor in an university, the audience would expect
Frank to be very formal, however, he isn't in this situation. Frank
reveals his comic personality to the audience as he discusses a window
in his office to Rita. He tells her that he "sometimes get an urge to
throw something through it usually a student." As Frank is quite a
sincere character, I would direct him to suggest sincerity about
throwing a student through the window by his facial expressions.
Comedy of character is also very important in the play as it is a
two-person play. There are many examples of this throughout the play,
such as Rita's second visit to Frank as she "is standing in the
door-way holding a small can of oil." Russell uses surprise as a
university professor would not usually find a student at his door "jus
oilin' it for y'" Frank's reaction would be shown mainly in his