Claire Sweeney takes lead role in Educating Rita revival

The actress discusses Willy Russell's much-loved script

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Claire Sweeney takes lead role in Educating Rita revival

Photo: Catherine Ashmore

Whether on stage or screen, few can forget Willy Russell’s young, earnest heroine, in Educating Rita, a working class girl hungry for education who finds herself under the tutelage of a lost, boozed up lecturer, searching for life beyond academia. For Brookside actress-turned star of the stage Claire Sweeney, it’s been a role worth waiting for. ‘Growing up in Liverpool, Willy Russell was a hero to me and the part of Rita was such an inspiration,’ she says. ‘I’m delighted to be playing one of his heroines.’

As an actress, playing to Rita’s vulnerability and inner turmoil has been a challenge. ‘She’s so conflicted yet strong, which is so interesting to play. And while Willy likes to update his scripts, people who enjoyed her character before will still find so much to love about her.’

Sweeney admits she is relishing the idea of bringing Rita to an audience on her own terms. ‘I could think of Julie Walters and Michael Caine in the film, but I’d just get scared. It’s about bringing your interpretations, and hopefully people will connect with it.’

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Mon 28–Thu 31 May.

Educating Rita

  • 3 stars

Matthew Kelly and Claire Sweeney star in Willy Russell's play about a young girl's introduction to literature.

Educating Rita

  • Directed by: Tamara Harvey
  • Written by: Willy Russell

Liverpudlian hairdresser Rita challenges the attitude of her Open University lecturer, Frank Bryant, who starts to question his own perceptions about the literary classics.

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