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Educating Rita to embark on 40th anniversary UK tour

Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson will reprise their roles in Willy Russell's drama

Stephen Tompkinson and Jessica Johnson in Educating Rita
© Robert Day

Educating Rita will tour the UK in 2020 on the play's 40th anniversary, it has been announced.

The production will star Stephen Tompkinson as Frank and Jessica Johnson as Rita. It tells the story of a married hairdresser who enrols on an Open University course to expand her horizons, and her encounters with university tutor Frank.

Educating Rita was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and played at the Warehouse Theatre, London in 1980, starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston. Walters reprised her role in the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning film opposite Michael Caine.

Writer Willy Russell said of this tour: "I am delighted that Stephen and Jess are returning next year to play Frank and Rita in the 40th anniversary production of Educating Rita, directed once again by the wonderful Max Roberts – I'm extremely proud to be associated with this marvellous production."

Tompkinson commented: "We had such a wonderful time touring and performing this last year around the UK. Audiences respond so well to Willy Russell's brilliant two-hander. The response Jess and I receive and their affection for this play and these characters are overwhelming. I'm thrilled to be a part of this production and to be sharing the stage with Jess again in even more cities next year."

Johnson added: "Working with Willy, Max and Stephen earlier this year and developing the role of Rita in front of incredible audiences, has been the highlight of my career so far. It has been a total honour and now I get to do it again in the 40th anniversary production. I couldn't be happier."

Roberts returns to direct, with set and costume design by Patrick Connellan, lighting design by Drummond Orr and sound design by David Flynn. The show is produced byDavid Pugh and co-produced by Theatre by the Lake.

The 40th anniversary show will open at Oxford Playhouse on 4 February, before playing in Portsmouth, Eastbourne, Glasgow, Barnstaple, Guildford, Blackpool, Kingston-upon-Thames, Crewe, Cardiff, Northampton, High Wycombe, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

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