The Company

Professional quality amateur dramatics in Sheffield.

About Willy Russell

William Russell shared many similarities to his most famous character, Rita. He was born in 1947 to a working class family in Merseyside. He was not academically talented at school, coming away at the age of fifteen with a solitary O-level.

He initially went on to follow Rita's choice of career - a women's hairdresser - at the suggestion of his mother. Unfortunately, unlike Rita, he turned out to be abysmal at that job, preferring instead to sit in the back room writing away. At first, he wrote entertaining songs to amuse himself, one of which ("Kirkby Estate") he was persuaded to sing at a pub.

During adulthood he furthered his interest by going to night-school and learning the intricacies of drama. Here, he started writing stage plays. Educating Rita was inspired by Willy's own return to education. Much of the comedy arises from her unschooled reaction to the classics of English Literature with such honest exclamations as: "Howard's End by Mr E.M Forster, is one really crap book!".

Willy Russell in his academic gown