News: Kimberley Hart Simpson and Keith Hill to take on Educating Rita at Mowlem Theatre

Kimberley Hart Simpson (Coronation Street; Hollyoaks) will take on the role that made Julie Walters a breakthrough star as she steps into the titular role of Educating Rita. She will be joined by Keith Hill (Les Enfants Terribles’ Vaudevillains; The Curse of Edgar) in this witty and heartwarming classic at Mowlem Theatre this September.

Rita, a 26 year old Liverpudlian hairdresser, is on a quest to ‘better herself’. Pursuing her passion for English literature, she enrolls in an Open University course. Frank, a middle aged university lecturer and Rita’s tutor, is bitter and cynical. Pained by his art, his medication is alcohol. Willy Russell’s hilarious masterpiece tells the story of two people from very different worlds who find an unlikely connection.

Learning is not about memorisation but about being given the tools to engage and interrogate the world around us. It broadens horizons and allows for greater empathy and understanding. A show with huge heart, Educating Rita explores the power of human connection and the importance of education to shape lives.

Director Alice Bartlett added: “I’m so thrilled to be coming back to Swanage – which holds many happy childhood memories for me. And absolutely delighted to be returning with a production of Willy Russell’s wonderful comedy, Educating Rita. Rita is such an inspiring and magnificent character with the potential to educate us all.”

The disruptions and challenges of recent months, both in the UK and internationally, have focussed many of us on the importance of education. I’m far from alone in learning new skills and re-evaluating my priorities over the past year. Perhaps that’s why this play feels so very relevant right now – because this is Rita’s journey too: to shape a new identity for herself, on her own terms, in a changing world. It’s a play about self-empowerment, aspiration and authenticity. It reminds us that learning is for life, not just for exams. And, perhaps the best tonic of all – it makes us laugh, a lot. Do come and see us at the Mowlem Theatre, where I hope Rita will charm, delight, entertain, and perhaps also educate you. She’s certainly educating me at the moment!

Producing company, Hordern Ciani, is grateful for its support from Arts Council England and the Culture Recovery Fund.

Educating Rita is running at the Mowlem Theatre from 7 to 11 September.

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