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Stars relishing the chance to bring Educating Rita to the Lichfield Garrick

Following a string of successes which have included prestigious London transfers Lichfield’s Garrick Rep Company is currently busy working on its next production, Educating Rita.

To get a glimpse of the progress of their next coup in-the-making I caught up with its stars Tupele Dorgu, best-known for her role as Corrie’s feisty Kelly Crabtree and Garrick actor-in-residence, Rep Producer and Youth Project Manager Tom Roberts (Doctors, Casualty and a whole host of other stage and small screen credits) during their high-octane rehearsals for Willy Russell’s block-busting international hit.

Tom Roberts

Tom Roberts

“It’s hard work, because the script’s meaty,” Tom explained. “But it’s very satisfying getting to grips with something so unique.”

Tupele agreed: “After a crazy last year which included a national tour of Chicago and a hectic panto season I’ve turned down work partly to have a bit of a breather, but also to have time to choose things I really want to do, like this.

“Rita’s a wonderfully written part.”

But why choose this play, I wondered? Tupele comes straight back.

“Because it’s so good,” she exclaims. “It’s a piece that can appeal to a wide audience, from the seasoned cultured theatre-goer to first-timers. I don’t think there’s anyone who can’t relate to that.”

But with a story so well-known because of its famous film, can they add anything new?

“The play came before the film,” Tom reminds me. Tupele comes in passionately. “It’s very different, more intense. The play has a lot of subtleties.

“There are two characters, but they’re very different. Frank the lecturer is an intellectual who knows a lot of stuff, while Rita’s a girl who comes to him for knowledge, yet despite their class difference they end up teaching each other. She’s unhappy at the start of the play, but so is Frank; he’s drinking too much, bored and unhappy with his job.

“So the two characters interact with each other in a very significant way. This play is about two people who each go on a personal journey, and take us with them.”

Tupele obviously feels her mission deeply.

“Willy Russsell is such a genius,” she says. “Our job is to make it real.”

Tupele Dorgu

Tupele Dorgu

I’m glad they’re doing it in the Garrick Studio because it’s so intimate. Tom agrees but admits: “Doing it in that space is challenging. You can’t hide.”

Tupele agrees about the challenge.

“There are only two characters,” she adds, “so we’re each responsible for fifty per cent of the show.”

Educating Rita is being directed by Gareth Tudor Price, a highly experienced freelance director whose credits include working with John Godber’s famous Hull Truck company and at a range of other theatres in the north-east, so the actors know they’re in safe hands.

“And he insists,” says Tom, “on keeping it loyal to the text.”

By now I’m really looking forward to seeing what they’re working so hard on, but for the actors and director, at the moment it’s back to the increasingly intense rehearsals before they can let us see it.

Somehow I have a feeling this could be the Garrick Rep’s greatest success yet.

Educating Rita runs from May 31 to June 22 in the Garrick Studio. For tickets go online at or phone the box office on 01543 412121.

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