By the creator of Shirley Valentine, Willie Russell
and starring “our own Shirley” as Rita
A few short years ago, Susan Hennessy entertained more than a thousand of us – some many times over – as she portrayed, personified, and became Shirley Valentine on the Carnegie stage. Susan would walk around Kenmare town and people would say, “Hi Shirley”. I think some of us still do.
After March 8th 2023, don’t be surprised if you’re calling her Rita.
Educating Rita is about a strong working class woman, a delightful character who decides to become educated so she may choose to live fully, and find “a better song to sing”. Like Shirley Valentine, for Rita it’s about breaking free from tradition, deciding for herself, becoming independent of a good but old fashioned controlling husband to find her own identity.
The educational tutor she is assigned to is Dr. Frank Bryant, a tired and cynical but brilliant doctor of English Literature – played by the equally brilliant Pádraig Rochford – who has starred in comedy and straight parts over the last number of years. Pádraig is also the driving force behind the big bounce back our Carnegie Theatre is making after the Covid years.
The energy on the stage is electrifying as these contrasting personalities find conflict, common ground and humour in this wonderfully entertaining piece by Willie Russell – in my opinion Educating Rita is his greatest work – sorry Shirley.
If you’ve seen the movie, it’s good and starred a couple of greats but believe me, the play is the real thing. Pádraig’s Frank and Susan’s Rita have everything Michael Caine and Julie Walters had in the movie but on stage it is immediate and intimate like a movie can never be. You’ll be laughing and crying with them.
I’m not saying all these great things about Educating Rita because I’m directing it. It’s the other way around. I’m delighted to have been asked to direct it because of all these great things.