Sunderland actress to star in stage adaptation of hit 80s film

Jessica Johnson
Jessica Johnson
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A Sunderland actress will step into Julie Walters’ shoes to take on the lead role in an adaptation of hit film Educating Rita.

Former St Anthony’s School pupil Jessica Johnson will take on the lead as Rita, with Patrick Driver, who’s appeared in Silent Witness and Call the Midwife, taking the helm as Frank when the production is staged at Durham Gala Theatre.

Written by Willy Russell, the story became a national hit in 1983, when a screenplay based on his 1980 stage production starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters was nominated for three Oscars.

Educating Rita is part of a new drive to produce more work at Gala.  It will be directed by Newcastle-based Rebecca Frecknall.

Jo Cundall, Gala’s arts programme manager, said: “We are delighted to be bringing this British theatre classic to Gala audiences.

“Michael Caine and Julie Waters turned Willy Russell’s heart-warming story into a seminal BAFTA award-winning film and we hope Jess’s performance as this much loved character will capture the hearts and minds of Gala audiences.”

The production tells the story of Susan ‘Rita’ White, a working class hairdresser, fed up of her life and with aspirations for better things. She meets Open University professor and alcoholic, middle aged academic Frank Bryant who both inspire each other as they form an unlikely bond.

•Educating Rita is at Gala Theatre from Tuesday, April 4 to Saturday, April 8 at 7.30pm, with 2.30pm matinees on Thursday and Saturday. Tickets are priced at £15 or £13 for concessions. £12 tickets are also available for opening night, matinees and Gala members

A special two for one ticket promotion will also be in place on opening night for Gala Members.