Educating Rita - as a Comedy

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In Educating Rita, the conflict between Willy Russell’s characters, Frank and Rita, arises from their different backgrounds: Frank from the middle class and Rita from the working class. Russell uses caricature in the play to create conflict. Rita is a stereotype of her class as she smokes, is a hairdresser and swears. Frank, on the other hand, is shown as a stereotype of his class as he is a lecturer and he eats ratatouille. This conflict between them causes comedy as there are misunderstandings, which are amusing and the audience feel superiority over the characters who do not understand some of each other’s references. At the start of the play when Rita refers to a poem about “fightin’ death an’ disease”, Frank automatically assumes its “Dylan Thomas” as Thomas’s poem about death is a part of the literary canon. However Rita replies it’s “Roger McGough’s” poem that she’s describing. This misunderstanding conveys to the audience that these characters would not conventionally associate with each other. It could be amusing to the audience as it highlights the absurdity of the situation. Also, in the same scene, Frank does not get Rita’s joke about him being named after the quality who is Frank Ness, Eliot’s brother who was the famous ‘Chicago copper’ who caught Al Capone. Frank thought Rita meant T.S Eliot. The audience may feel superior to Frank, as they may understand the joke so this would be amusing to them. Professor Dan Rebellato states that: “we laugh at something because we feel superior to it”. This is valid as the audience laugh at Frank not understanding the joke. However, we may also laugh at Rita not understanding Frank’s references. People in the audience may understand Frank’s references if read well which would be typical of people who attend the theatre. Andrew Edwards, a set designer for a production of ‘Educating Rita’ claimed that: ‘a lot of
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