Stephen Tompkinson returns to Fylde roots with 40th anniversary tour of Educating Rita at the Grand Theatre

Actor Stephen Tompkinson with playwright Willy Russell and Jessica Johnson currently touring in Educating Rita
Actor Stephen Tompkinson with playwright Willy Russell and Jessica Johnson currently touring in Educating Rita

Highly acclaimed Willy Russell play Educating Rita, celebrates its 40th anniversary production in 2020 with a UK tour starring Stephen Tompkinson as Frank and Jessica Johnson as Rita.

The production, put together by David Pugh and Theatre by the Lake, comes to Blackpool next week for a three night run at the Grand Theatre.

Stephen Tompkinson as Frank and Jessica Johnson as Rita in the 40th anniversary tour of Educating Rita

Stephen Tompkinson as Frank and Jessica Johnson as Rita in the 40th anniversary tour of Educating Rita

The show is directed by Max Roberts.

Willy Russell said of the new tour: “I am delighted that Stephen and Jess are returning next year to play Frank and Rita in the 40th anniversary production of Educating Rita, directed once again by the wonderful Max Roberts - I’m extremely proud to be associated with this marvellous production.”

Educating Rita tells the story of married hairdresser Rita, who enrols on an Open University course to expand her horizons, and her encounters with university tutor Frank.

Frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, Frank is less than enthusiastic about teaching Rita.

Stephen Tompkinson in Educating Rita

Stephen Tompkinson in Educating Rita

However, Frank soon finds that his passion for literature is reignited by Rita, whose technical ability for the subject is limited by her lack of education, but whose enthusiasm Frank finds refreshing. The two soon realise how much they have to learn from each other.

DCI Banks actor, Stephen Tompkinson, a former pupil at St Bede’s Roman Catholic High School said: “We had such a wonderful time touring and performing this last year around the UK. Audiences respond so well to Willy Russell’s brilliant two-hander.

“The response Jess and I receive and their affection for this play and these characters are overwhelming. I’m thrilled to be a part of this production and to be sharing the stage with Jess again in even more cities next year.”

The play was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and played at the Warehouse Theatre, London in 1980, starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston. Julie Walters reprised her role in the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning film opposite Michael Caine.

Jessica, whose theatre credits include Call Me Mary Poppins, Goth Weekend, Kings and Queens added:“Working with Willy, Max and Stephen earlier this year and developing the role of Rita in front of incredible audiences, has been the highlight of my career so far.

“It has been a total honour and now I get to do it again in the 40th anniversary production. I couldn’t be happier.”

The show opens at the Grand on Monday March 16 until Saturday 21.Tickets from £24 visit https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/educating-rita/