'Educating Rita" is dramatically effective in many ways. It is also recognised as an exceptional play; it was voted "Best comedy of the year" when performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1980, and just three years after release, it had become the fourth most popular play in Britain. There are obviously factors which make it so effective, and I intend to explore these factors.
Throughout the play, there are only two characters: this is known as a two-hander. Other characters are only mentioned in the play, but in the film have been cast as parts. It worked well for the film, but I think it lost the closeness which plays such an important part in the theatre. Some people would find this to be tedious, but I think it adds to the intensity and intimacy between the audience and the characters.
There is a focus on the two characters which means that the audience can appreciate the relationship between Rita and Frank which is emphasised more than it would be with other characters, and would notice any subtle changes that occur in the play.
For example, when Rita starts to use the correct form of speech for talking about literature and uses a higher standard of English. You can see this in Act I, Scene 4 when Frank and Rita were talking about her "Peer Gynt" essay where her response was "Do it on the radio." Frank could not believe what she had written as her entire essay, and in her defense Rita says, "I didn't have much time this week, so I sort of, y'know, encapsulated all me ideas in one line."
The audience familiarise with Frank and Rita and we can see more closely what they are feeling and thinking because we know them better.