The Power of the Single Set in Educating Rita Essay

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The Power of the Single Set in Educating Rita

There are obvious financial and logistical reasons for making Educating Rita a two-handed play, but Willy Russell does far more with this format than simply save money on actors and sets. The play is essentially about the impact of education on the lives of two people and it therefore does not need to distract the audience with Rita and Frank's other relationships and concerns. The depth and intensity of Rita and Frank's relationship is also highlighted by having them as the only characters on stage. It could be argued that the single room set does not give the audience enough of a sense of the social context of the two characters, but this is more than made up for by the
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I'm gonna have a room like this one day. There's nothing phoney about it. Everything is in its right place.

Clearly the room represents Rita's aspirations, her desire to become a member of the educated middle class elite. As with education itself, Frank has got it but doesn't value it, whereas Rita is prepared to work hard to achieve it. As Rita's education progresses her attitude to the room also changes. Quite early on she says:

... it feeds me inside. I can get through the rest of the week if I know I've got comin' here to look forward to.

After her first experience of live Shakespeare she rushes to the room on her lunch break, bursting with the need to share her new and exciting ideas and perceptions. After she has failed to show up to Frank's dinner party, she says:

I'm all right here with you, here in this room, but when I saw those people you were with I couldn't come in.

The room at this stage is in sharp contrast to the other environments Rita mentions: the loud and distracting, but deeply conservative hairdressing salon; her conflict-laden home and the spiritless pubs of her 'normal' life. However, as Rita grows in confidence and strength, the room becomes less important. She moves into a flat, works in a bistro, chats to students on warm summer lawns and begins to appreciate Blake at an intensely exciting summer school. Before long Rita begins to see faults in the room.


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