Rita’s 40th anniversary tour

Published: 13 November 2019
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Jessica Johnson and Stephen Tompkinson in Educating Rita Credit: Robert Day

The David Pugh and Theatre by the Lake production of Educating Rita which toured earlier this year is to be revived for a 40th anniversary tour in 2020 with the same cast and creative team.

Stockton-born Stephen Tompkinson (Frank) and Jessica Johnson (Rita) from Sunderland reprise their roles under the direction of Max Roberts, Emeritus Director of Newcastle’s Live Theatre, who came to Newcastle to college in 1973 and stayed, first acting with Live and then directing plays by, among many others, C P Taylor, Tom Hadaway, Alan Plater, Shelagh Stephenson and Lee Hall.

Also involved in the production are Live's Production Manager Drummond Orr (lighting) and Technical & Digital Manager Dave Flynn (sound).

Playwright 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.”

“We had such a wonderful time touring and performing this last year around the UK,” said Stephen Tompkinson. “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.”

“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,” said Jessica Johnson. “It has been a total honour and now I get to do it again in the 40th anniversary production. I couldn’t be happier.”

The tour begins at Oxford Playhouse on 4–8 February and ends at Newcastle Theatre Royal (18–23 May). It will visit:

  • Kings Theatre, Portsmouth (10–15 February)
  • Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne (17–22 February)
  • Theatre Royal, Glasgow (24–29 February)
  • Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple (3–7 March)
  • Guildford Yvonne Arnaud (9–14 March)
  • Grand Theatre, Blackpool (16–21 March)
  • Rose Theatre Kingston (24–28 March)
  • Lyceum Theatre, Crewe (30 March–4 April)
  • New Theatre, Cardiff (20–25 April)
  • Royal & Derngate, Northampton (27 April–2 May)
  • Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe (4–9 May)
  • King’s Theatre Edinburgh (11–16 May)

Further tour dates are to be announced.