Willy Russell

Share

Plays by Willy Russell

Blood Brothers

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A compelling story of friendship, loyalty and fate, Blood Brothers is one of the longest-running and most successful ever West End musicals, as well as one of the most moving.

Twin brothers are separated at birth because their mother cannot afford to keep them both; one of them is given away to a wealthy woman, the other remains with his mother. They become friends and swear to be blood brothers, all the time unaware of their true fraternity. But as they grow older, the two brothers find they can no longer ignore the class difference that divides them, and the love triangle that has dominated their lives erupts into a quarrel. The staggeringly emotional climax of the play questions whether it was destiny, or the inevitable difference of class, that led to the fatal conflict of two brothers who were once so close. Blood Brothers was first performed at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1983.

Breezeblock Park

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Set on a Liverpool Housing estate in the run up to Christmas, Breezeblock Park is a comedy about the ups and downs of family life. Betty is preparing the decorations for her guest, and making her house neat and tidy for her guests. But what she hopes will be a respectable Christmas gathering of her daughter Sandra, brother Tim and sister Reeny, becomes a maelstrom of drunken bickering and petty recriminations when Sandra reveals the shocking news that she is pregnant.

One of Russell's first plays, Breezeblock Park was first presented in 1975 at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool before transferring to London that same year.

Educating Rita (Modern Classic)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Educating Rita is a play for two actors about a working-class woman’s hunger for education, knowledge and culture, and her friendship with a weary, alcoholic, failed poet-cum-lecturer.

Susan is a hairdresser who feels that there must be more to life than having children, so she renames herself 'Rita' after her favourite fictional character and applies for an Open University course in English Literature. Set entirely in the scholarly clutter of Dr Frank Bryant’s office, the play follows Rita’s efforts to escape her old life, and her blossoming into a literary connoisseur under Frank’s sporadic direction. Terribly funny and terribly sad, the play is both a comic masterwork and a poignant examination of education, class and disillusionment.

Educating Rita premiered at the Warehouse Theatre, London, in 1980. It was subsequently made into a highly successful film with Michael Caine and Julie Walters. This revised version was first performed in 2002 at the Liverpool Playhouse.

Educating Rita (Student Edition)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

This Student Edition of Educating Rita provides a wealth of scholarly information, annotation and background to aid the study of Russell's much-loved play.

Educating Rita is a play for two actors about a working-class woman’s hunger for education, knowledge and culture, and her friendship with a weary, alcoholic, failed poet-cum-lecturer. This Methuen Drama Student Edition includes extensive notes for students and teachers of the play.

Susan is a hairdresser who feels that there must be more to life than having children, so she renames herself 'Rita' after her favourite fictional character and applies for an Open University course in English Literature. Set entirely in the scholarly clutter of Dr Frank Bryant’s office, the play follows Rita’s efforts to escape her old life, and her blossoming into a literary connoisseur under Frank’s sporadic direction. Terribly funny and terribly sad, the play is both a comic masterwork and a poignant examination of education, class and disillusionment.

Educating Rita premiered at the Warehouse Theatre, London, in 1980. It was subsequently made into a highly successful film with Michael Caine and Julie Walters. This revised version was first performed in 2002 at the Liverpool Playhouse.

John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Bert

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

John, Paul, George, Ringo . . . and Bert was the first major hit for Willy Russell, one of Britain’s best-loved playwrights. A musical about The Beatles, it won the Evening Standard and London Critics’ awards for Best New Musical of 1974.

Commissioned and directed by Alan Dosser for Liverpool's Everyman Theatre where it opened in May 1974, the critically acclaimed production transferred to the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London in August. At the time, Time Out wrote that it was ‘Funny, incisive, well-acted and makes its points without any arty philosophising’.

Full of Willy Russell’s trademark wit and local Liverpudlian colour, John, Paul, George, Ringo . . . and Bert is a humourous and heart-warming story of Liverpool’s most famous four sons . . . and Bert.

One for the Road (Russell)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

One for the Road is an almost farcical comedy about one dinner party too many, as Dennis loses patience with domesticity and makes a break for the freedom of the open road.

Dennis and Pauline live in a bungalow in Phase Two of a northern housing estate, and are serving hachis a parmentier to their guests Jane and Roger. Pauline is very pleased about this. Dennis is less enthusiastic – he will be forty tomorrow, feels like he is wasting his life, and would rather they just called it cottage pie. Outside, Dennis’s parents are lost on the estate, and vandals are decapitating garden gnomes and obscenely vandalising vegetables.

As Dennis’s anarchic streak reveals itself, what was supposed to be an impeccably middle-class dinner becomes a first-class row about middle age, affairs, and what’s locked in the bureau.

Russell’s hilarious and sharply observed play was first performed at the Lyric Theatre, London in 1987.

Our Day Out

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Our Day Out is an account of a school trip for students from a remedial class: hilarious, chaotic and lively, but tinged with the suggestion that the disadvantaged children have little else to look forward to.

Mrs Kay’s ‘Progress Class’ are unleashed for a day’s coach trip to Conway Castle in Wales, stopping off at the café, the zoo, the beach and the funfair, the children taking advantage of the numerous opportunities to bicker, fool around, steal and get lost. Russell presents an exuberant celebration of the joys and agonies of growing up and being footloose, fourteen and free from school. But this is more than a romp – Our Day Out points up the depressing present and empty future for these comprehensive-school children from the backstreets of Liverpool, for whom a day out is as much as they can expect.

This tender comedy was originally written for television and transmitted as a BBC ‘Play for Today’ in 1976. It was later adapted for the stage and first performed in 1983 at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.

Shirley Valentine

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The vivid and witty voice of Shirley Valentine, a middle-aged and put-upon housewife, narrates her own epiphany in Russell’s moving and influential comic monologue about personal and sexual identity.

Shirley is used to talking to the kitchen wall. Her husband pays her no attention unless his dinner isn’t on the table the moment he walks through the door, and so the running monologue she delivers while preparing his egg and chips is the closest she comes to a conversation. Her friend Jane has invited her on holiday to Greece, but of course she’s not going to go. Her husband would have no-one to cook his dinner or do his ironing.

But as she talks to the wall and cooks the chips, she realises that all she wants is to drink a glass of wine by the sea, and live her life again.

Shirley Valentine was first performed in 1986 at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.

Stags & Hens

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Unknown to each other, Linda and Dave have decided to have their respective hen and stag parties in the same tacky Liverpool club – or more accurately, in its toilets. With the girls applying make-up, doing their hair and crying in cubicles, and the boys puking into the lavatory and drawing on the walls, the whole of Stags and Hens takes place in the Ladies and Gents.

Both parties are out on the pull, after a night (or even just a few minutes) of passion – with the exception of the groom, who is throwing up after the curry, and the bride, who is having second thoughts. Russell’s raucous, coarse, and very funny play is a brilliant depiction of what passes for courtship, and the squeals, jeers and flings considered a necessary prelude to getting married.

Stags and Hens premiered in 1978 at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool; the updated text, entitled Stags and Hens – The Remix was produced at the Royal Court, Liverpool, in 2008.

Picture of Willy Russell

One of the most-produced writers of his time, Willy Russell (b. Whiston, Liverpool, 23 Aug. 1947) is a playwright and songwriter. He has written a large number of highly successful plays and musicals for stage and TV including John, Paul, George, Ringo ... and Bert (1974), Breezeblock Park (1975), One for the Road (1976), Our Day Out (television 1977; stage musical version 1983), Stags and Hens (1978; filmed as Dancin' thru the Dark, 1990), Educating Rita (1979), Blood Brothers (1981; musical version 1983), and Shirley Valentine (1986). His novel, The Wrong Boy, was published to great acclaim in 2000.