A MAJOR new stage production of Willy Russell’s wonderfully entertaining Educating Rita is now touring the UK and one of its stop-off points will be in Malvern early next month.

The show, starring Stephen Tompkinson - well known as TV's DCI Banks, will be opening at the town’s Festival Theatre on Monday, August 5 through to Saturday, August 10.

Tompkinson features as Frank, the college lecturer, while Jessica Johnson will be Rita.

Her story tells of the life of married hairdresser Rita, who enrols on an Open University course to expand her horizons, and her encounters with university tutor Frank.

Frank is a frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, who is less than enthusiastic about teaching Rita. However, he soon finds that his passion for literature is reignited by Rita, whose technical ability for the subject is limited by her lack of education, but whose enthusiasm Frank finds refreshing.

The two soon realise how much they have to learn from each other.

The play was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and played at the Warehouse Theatre, London in 1980, starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston. Julie Walters reprised her role in the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning film opposite Michael Caine.

Writer Willy Russell was himself a women’s hairdresser after leaving school at the age of 15, and also a part-time singer/songwriter before returning to education to retrain as a teacher.

Russell’s other writing credits include the Olivier Award-winning musical Blood Brothers, and the hugely successful play - later adapted for film - Shirley Valentine.

Stephen Tompkinson’s television credits include ITV’s Torvill & Dean, BBC’s The Split, five series of DCI Banks, four series of Trollied, seven series of Wild at Heart, six series of Drop the Dead Donkey (British Comedy Award Winner for Best TV Comedy Actor) and three series of Ballykissangel, and his films include Phil in Brassed Off.

His theatre work includes Spamalot, Rattle of a Simple Man and Arsenic and Old Lace in the West End, Cloaca and A Christmas Carol (Old Vic), Art and Tartuffe (National Tours).

Jessica Johnson’s theatre credits include Call Me Mary Poppins, Goth Weekend, Kings and Queens, Each Piece and Anti-Gravity at the Live Theatre, Newcastle. She previously played Rita in Rebecca Frecknall’s 2017 production of Educating Rita at the Gala Theatre, Durham.

Her television credits include Wire In The Blood (ITV), Coronation Street (ITV) and Cuckoo (Channel 4).