That production transferred to Trafalgar Studios 1, playing in rep with Russell's one-woman play Shirley Valentine which earned Meera Syal a 2011 Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Solo Performance.
Educating Rita centres on an under-privileged Liverpudlian hairdresser who tries to enrich her life by going on an English Lit Open University course and develops a special relationship with her tutor. Originally commissioned by the RSC in 1980, it was made into film, starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine, in 1983.
Touring dates for Educating Rita have still to be announced.
Sweeney has most recently been seen on stage playing Paulette in the touring production of Legally Blonde. Her other credits include Chicago at the Adelphi and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s Tell Me On A Sunday.
Her television credits included playing Lindsey Corkhill in Brookside, Katrina in Clocking Off, Roz in Merseybeat and most recently Amanda in BBC 1's Candy Cabs.
Claire Sweeney & Matthew Kelly in Educating Rita. Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning
Matthew Kelly has also toured with Legally Blonde, playing Professor Callaghan. His recent West End appearances include Lend Me A Tenor and Sign of the Times as well as Waiting For Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. His stage credits also include Buried Child (Curve Leicester), Spamalot (UK Tour), Comedians (Lyric Hammersmith), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Trafalgar Studios), Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare’s Globe), Victory (Arcola) and Amadeus (Wilton’s Music Hall). He won an Olivier Award for his performance as Lennie in Birmingham Rep’s production of Of Mice And Men.
Willy Russell currently represented in the West End by the long-running production of his musical Blood Brothers. As well as Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine Russell is the author of John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert, Stags and Hens, One for the Road and Breezeblock Park. His writing for television includes Our Day Out and One Summer.