The Gala Theatre in Durham has announced that a North East actor will take on the lead role in its upcoming production of Educating Rita.
Sunderland-born Jessica Johnson will take on the lead as Rita, with Patrick Driver (Silent Witness and Call the Midwife) taking the helm as Frank.
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.
The production tells the story of Susan ‘Rita’ White, a working class hairdresser, fed up of her life and with aspirations for better things. Along comes Open University professor and alcoholic, middle aged academic Frank Bryant.
With Rita’s brash honesty and Frank’s deep intellect, each inspires the other as they begin to form an unlikely bond.
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.”
Educating Rita is at Gala Theatre from Tuesday 4 to Saturday 8 April, 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.