Colchester’s Mercury Theatre celebrates the 35th anniversary of one of the great comic stories of the last four decades.
A new production of Willy Russell’s Educating Rita will be directed by Patrick Sandford and stars Samantha Robinson and Dougal Lee.
Opening on February 26, Educating Rita is the story of a hairdresser in search of adventure and the education she never got at school.
Patrick Sandford, formerly artistic director of the Nuffield Theatre Southampton for 25 years, said: “Any director loves working on a great play and this is one of the best plays of the last forty years.
“The subject is not really Frank teaching Rita about literature; it’s about Rita finding out who she really is and having the confidence to be herself.
“We all have to find out who we are and I think this is why so many people of all ages have identified with the story and loved it.
“Of course it’s also a love story. Frank falls for the woman he is helping and he finds it impossible to control Rita as her new-found independence takes her away from him.
“Can he hold her? That’s the thriller aspect of the play. We don’t know how their relationship will turn out until the very end.
“Samantha is a terrific young actress. I am looking forward to working with her in a comedy. It’s fantastic that she is a genuine Liverpudlian and her sister is a hairdresser!”
“Dougal Lee is a frighteningly brainy actor but above all he knows how to play comedy. He is also so genuinely charming that audiences will warm to him immediately.”
Samantha’s recent credits include the part of Jean in ITV’s Cilla, Mary in The Grand Gesture at Northern Broadsides, and Cindy in Dead, Heavy, Fantastic at Liverpool Everyman.
She said: “It’s been a career-long desire to play Rita, and I’m relishing the chance to bring to life a character that resonates so profoundly with me.
“I’m a big fan of Willy Russell and his script is packed with intensity and fun.”
Dougal, who has worked extensively in theatre, played George in the original West End cast of Don’t Dress for Dinner at the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue.
He said: “One of the things I love about Educating Rita is Willy Russell’s acute understanding of the joy to be gained from knowledge, education, academic discovery, curiosity – and the ease with which such things can become commonplace and jaded to the person who is in the position to take them for granted.”
Educating Rita will play at the Mercury Theatre from Thursday, February 26 until Saturday, March 14.