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Willy Russell's Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine transfer to the West End

Monday, 17 May 2010

Tim Piggott-Smith joins Laura Dos Santos in Educating Rita with Meera Syal reprising her role in Shirley Valentine. The productions will open at the Trafalgar Studios on 8 July with press performances on 26 July (3.30pm Shirley Valentine and 7pm Educating Rita) and are booking until 30 October 2010. Tickets go on sale Tuesday 18 May at 12 noon.

Educating Rita, directed by Jeremy Sams, and Shirley Valentine, directed by Glen Walford, both have designs by Peter McKintosh, lighting by Paul Anderson and sound by David Ogilvy. The Willy Russell Season will be presented in the West End by David Babani for Chocolate Factory Productions & Sonia Friedman Productions, Tanya Link, Bob Bartner and Bob Boyett.


Much to the dismay of her husband Denny, Rita, a young, brash hairdresser, has recently discovered a passion for English literature and enrols with the Open University. Her fresh, unschooled reaction to the classics challenges the attitudes of the University and her lecturer Frank who begins to question his own understanding of his work and himself.

Tim Pigott-Smith received a 2010 Olivier Award nomination for his performance as Ken Lay in Enron at the Noel Coward Theatre. His extensive theatre credits include Pygmalion at the Old Vic, Little Nell for the Bath Theatre Royal, Hecuba for the Donmar Warehouse and Mourning Becomes Electra for the National Theatre as well as many productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. On film his credits include Alice in Wonderland, Quantum of Solace, V for Vendetta and Bloody Sunday. His more recent television credits include The Queen, Midsomer Murders, On Expenses and The Last Flight to Kuwait.

Laura Dos Santos has most recently starred opposite Bill Nighy in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Educating Rita, broadcast last Christmas. Her previous theatre credits include We Will Be Gone at the Camden People’s Theatre, Look Back In Anger at the Jermyn Street Theatre, Stags and Hens at the Royal Court Liverpool, On The Middle Day at the Old Vic Theatre, In Your Hands at the New End Theatre and The Morris at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. Her television credits include Bad Girls, Fingersmith, Innocent Party and The Bill.

Jeremy Sams’ directing credits include The King and I at the Royal Albert Hall, The Sound of Music at the Palladium and on tour in the UK, Donkeys’ Years at the Comedy Theatre, The Little Britain live UK tour, Michael Frayn’s Noises Off at the National Theatre which transferred to the West End and Broadway and Spend Spend Spend at the Piccadilly Theatre and on tour nationally. His many adaptations and translations include The Rehearsal, Mary Stuart, La Bohème, The Magic Flute and The Merry Widow. His composing credits include Jane Austen’s Persuasion, for which he won a BAFTA and The Mother for the BBC, Arcadia for the National Theatre and The Merry Wives of Windsor for the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as the film score for Enduring Love for which he won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Film Score. He has also adapted the book of the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Educating Rita was originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, transferring to the West End in 1980. In 1983 it was made into a film starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine. Educating Rita was the recipient of the Olivier Award for Best Comedy as well as receiving Academy, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations.


Meet Shirley: a middle-aged Liverpudlian housewife who talks to the wall whilst preparing her husband’s egg and chips. She’s in a rut. What has happened to her life? When her best friend Jane pays for a holiday for two to Greece she packs her bags, heads for the sun and starts to see the world and herself rather differently….

Meera Syal is best known for her television work including Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars at Number 42 (for which she received a BAFTA nomination for Best Comedy Performance), Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee, My Sister Wife and Beautiful People. Later this year she will be seen in the new series of Dr Who playing geologist Nasreen Chowdhury opposite Matt Smith. Her theatre work includes Rafta Rafta, The Vagina Monologues and Serious Money. Syal is currently filming My First Love for Sky Arts Documentaries in which she returns to a past love, jazz singing. Following her mentoring sessions with Jacqui Dankworth, she performed at Ronnie Scott’s earlier this year.

Glen Walford was Artistic Director of Liverpool Everyman Theatre where she commissioned and directed the world premiere of Shirley Valentine. During her time as Artistic Director of Ludlow Festival her productions included The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Walford was the founding Artistic Director of London Bubble Theatre. She has directed extensively on tour and in London she has directed productions for the Royal Court, Bush, Tricycle and Hampstead Theatres.

Shirley Valentine received its world stage premiere in Liverpool in 1986 before the play opened in the West End two years later with Pauline Collins playing the title role, directed by Simon Callow. Shirley Valentine was the recipient of the Olivier Award for Best Comedy and as well as being BAFTA nominated. The film also won the Evening Standard Best Screenplay Award.


As well as Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, both of which were made into major award-winning features films, playwright, lyricist and composer Willy Russell is the author of the long running West End hit Blood Brothers. His other work includes John Paul George Ringo…& Bert, Stags and Hens, One for the Road and Breezeblock Park. His writing for television includes Our Day Out and One Summer. Russell’s plays have been performed in many countries across the globe, winning countless awards as well as academic honours. Willy Russell’s Our Day Out The Musical will play at the Royal Court Liverpool this Autumn.

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