Educating Rita Essay

Submitted By Vanilla13
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Examine the ways Russell uses humour to create an effective opening scene in ‘Educating Rita’
Educating Rita is a humorous play written by Willy Russell in 1980. The play is set in Liverpool and shows the perseverance of a working class 29 year old hairdresser, called Susan, although she is called ‘Rita’ throughout the play. Even though Rita has no qualifications she is determined to enrol in an Open University course and discover herself by takingEnglish Literature.She regrets not taking the opportunity to learn when she was at school, this is probably mainly because of her environment. Her tutor, Frank, is around 50 years of age, he is from more of a middle class background. Frank is an unorthodox character who obviously dislikes his job, I think he finds it boring and repetitive; this is probably why he chooses to get drunk every day. In the opening scene Willy Russel introduces Frank and Rita in two different ways, they are both unique characters. Frank is shown as a well-educated university tutor; this is shown by his university ‘study’. The fact that Frank is a disillusioned, tired alcoholic is revealed to the audience, ‘He pulls out some books and looks into the bookshelf … pulls out a pile of books to reveal a bottle of whisky’. This makes the audience hesitant about their first impression of Frank, as he is not a typical sophisticated gentleman, as they would have expected. Rita is introduced as illiterate andill-mannered, “I’m comin’ in, aren’t I? It’s that stupid bleedin’ handle on the door. You wanna get it fixed!”
There are many aspects that create humour in the play ‘Educating Rita’, the four main features are the comedy of the character, this is when a character in the play is recognised as being humorous, for example, because of a characteristic he/she possesses. This is demonstrated by Rita’s personality, she is a bubby, open minded and unique character. The second is the comedy of the situation, this is displayed by some of the awkward situations Russel illustrates, e.g. Rita and Frank’s first conversation; Rita “(studying the picture) It’s very erotic.”Frank “(looking up) Actually I don’t think I’ve looked at it for about ten years, but yes, I suppose it is.”Rita “There’s no suppose about it. Look at those tits.”“He coughs and goes back to looking for the admission paper” Here the audience can tell that Frank is felling very uncomfortable.The third is comedy of the language used, this is demonstrated mainly by Rita, by using her common ‘liverpudlian’ slang and her common accent which starkly contrasts against Franks elegant accent and his use of proper English, Rita “What am I?” Frank “Pardon?” Rita “What?”. Finally the fourth is the comedy of misunderstanding, this is shown many times by ‘Rita’ in the play; Rita “You’ve got to challenge death an’ disease. I read this poem about fightin’ death” … Frank “Ah – Dlyan Thomas” … Rita “No. Roger McGough. It was about this old man who runs away from hospital an’ goes out on the ale. He gets pissed an’ stands in the street shoutin’ an’ challengin’ death to come out an’ fight. It’s dead good.”
In the opening scene the audience meets Rita, the stereotypes in the 1970’s would expect Rita to be an intellectual woman, with a polite manner. But, when she barges through Franks door the audience realises she is a very eccentric and bold character; “I’m comin’ in, aren’t I? It’s that stupid bleedin’ handle on the door. You wanna get it fixed!” This behaviour from a 29 year old woman is what the audience least was expecting, they would have found her character very comical. Frank is obviously shocked by her entrance and her outburst, “Frank stares at Rita who stands by the desk. (Frank) You Are? (Rita) What am I?” this response engages the audience and makes them laugh.
Willy Russel displays humour by the use of a monologue; Franks conversation with his girlfriend. This is the first piece of humour the audience are presented with, the audience immediately knows who is on