STAND-UP funny man Alan Glover is engaged in a very different sort of comedy in Willy Russell’s play Educating Rita, which is being staged by Wollombi’s Valley Artists from May 9.
Glover is cast as Frank Bryant, a jaded, middle-aged academic with a fondness for the bottle.
Bryant, who is employed at a northern England university, is assigned as a tutor for Rita, a hairdresser who enrols in an open university literature course to seek escape from the routines of her job and social life.
Frank initially has misgivings about Rita’s ability to adapt to academia but is gradually won over by her enthusiasm and sincerity.
Rita is played in the two-character full-length play by Cath Patterson, a member of the Central Coast’s women’s harmony group Coastal a Cappella, who is making her theatre debut in the production.
Patterson is no stranger to Rita’s world, having come from a region in northern England that is close to the university’s setting.
And though Glover is renowned for his solo comedy and working with other stand-up performers, he was a founding member of Valley Artists in 1998 and has played in many of its productions.
As well as performing at clubs and pubs in the Newcastle area, he was seen on stage in Valley Artists’ production The Dog Logs at the Civic Playhouse in 2011. The production, which did an extensive tour after premiering at Wollombi, had three actors delivering monologues in which several dogs talked about their lives.
Educating Rita, which was written by Russell 30 years ago, is being staged in a revised version at Laguna Hall, south of Wollombi, from May 9 to 17.
Glover began performing stand-up comedy in 1983, about the time the play was written.
He has won acclaim not only in Australia but in New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Ireland, Britain and the Netherlands.
And his comedic skills have served him well, not only in stand-up, but in delivering the monologues of the four dogs he played in The Dog Logs and the multiple roles of a 2012 production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).
Glover’s comedy prowess is also used in his work with the Newcastle-based Arts Health Institute, which operates on the premise that laughter is the best medicine, with skilled performers working alongside health industry carers.
Robyn Blackwell, the director of Educating Rita, said the play’s themes of introspection, courage, openness to new things and a love of learning that created choice and freedom were ‘‘powerful ones and as current today as when Willy Russell wrote the play’’.
Educating Rita opens on Friday, May 9, at 7.30pm at Laguna Hall, 3734 Great North Road, Laguna, and runs for five more nights: May 10, 14, 15, 16 and 17. A matinee will be held on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 11, at 3pm, with Valley Artists offering a special lunch and matinee package in conjunction with Laguna’s Great Northern Trading Post restaurant. Tickets, $25 ($20 concession), and $40 lunch and show, are available from Wollombi General Store and the Great Northern Trading Post, or call 49983419 or email firstname.lastname@example.org