Willy Russell is one of the most successful playwrights of his generation. His plays have been performed in countries across the globe and have won countless appreciation and creative awards as well as academic honours for their author. Since their premiers plays such as Educating Rita, Stags and Hens, Shirley Valentine, Breezeblock Park and Our Day Out have been in constant production throughout the world.
We present these pages in the form of a timeline which, although under the heading of PLAYWRIGHT, shows all of Willy Russell's work including films, novels and significant moments in his career.
During the 1970's...
Willy Russell wrote ground breaking tv drama and stage plays, including Our Day Out (still used as a teaching resource in schools today), the award-winning musical John, Paul, George, Ringo & Bert... which began a long creative association with Barbara Dickson, Breezeblock Park, One for the Road, Stags & Hens and wrote the stage play Educating Rita, which was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and later turned into a film.
KEEP YOUR EYES DOWN
Produced as part of a student production at St. Katherines College, Liverpool.
Again produced at St. Katherines College, Liverpool. The same production was taken to the Edinburgh Fringe in August/September the same year.
Also produced at St Katherine's College. With KEEP YOUR EYES DOWN and SAM O SHANKER this formed the triple bill, BLIND SCOUSE first produced at St. Katherine's College and then at the Edinburgh Fringe - The Rifle Lodge, Broughton Terrace. The production was seen and admired in Edinburgh by John McGrath who was then instrumental in getting Willy his first professional commission for the Liverpool Everyman Company, then under the directorship of Alan Dossor.
'WHEN THE REDS'
Adapted from Alan Plater's play, 'The Tigers Are Coming.' Produced at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool. Directed by Pam Brighton and featuring amongst the cast a young Bernard Hill and even younger Anthony Sher.
"Even at the time and without the benefit of hindsight one knew just what an extraordinary company of actors Alan Dossor had assembled. As well as Bernard Hill and Tony Sher there was Jonathan Price, Alison Steadman, George Costigan, Trevor Eve, Liz Estensen, Philip Joseph, Matthew Kelly, Pete Postlethwaite, Julie Walters, Bill Nighy......awesome really."
KING OF THE CASTLE
A television play produced by BBC Birmingham as part of the Second City Firsts season. Transmitted 12th November 1973.
A musical play for children, produced at Dovecot Primary School.
Book Lyrics and Music by Willy Russell
A greatly reworked musical version of this play. Commissioned by Vanload, the Everyman Theatre Touring Company. This play toured pubs, clubs and community centres.
DEATH OF A YOUNG YOUNG MAN
Drama about a trio of youngsters suspended from school and the problems they then face. Broadcast as a part of the Play For Today series produced by BBC Birmingham.
JOHN PAUL GEORGE RINGO ... and BERT
Commissioned and directed by Alan Dosser for Liverpool's Everyman Theatre where it opened in May 1974. The production transferred to the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London in August. It ran for a year and won both the Evening Standard and London Critics' awards for Best Musical of 1974. Two major tours followed the West End run. The soundtrack with Barbara Dickson and the London cast was released on RSO records.
Produced for BBC Schools television programme Scene.
The Cantril Tales was a Christmas production at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre as part of the celebrations of the theatre’s 10th anniversary. It was an adaptation of the format of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and made up of a collection of pieces by different writers, including Willy Russell, George Costigan, Adrian Mitchell, Adrian Henri, Rick Juckes, C.G. Bond, Peter Postlethwaite & Nick Stringer. It was assembled by Willy Russell, directed by Jonathan Pryce and featured Nicholas Woodeson, Peter Postlethwaite, Nick Stringer, Rowena Parr, Matthew Kelly, David Peart, Katherine Fahy, Bill Nighy, Julie Walters.
JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, RINGO ... and BERT
Screenplay commissioned by the Robert Stigwood Organisation but never produced.
Commissioned and directed by Alan Dosser for the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. A new production of this play was directed by Alan Dosser for the Mermaid Theatre, London in August 1977, which transferred to the Whitehall Theatre in September of the same year.
'I READ THE NEWS TODAY'
BBC Schools radio production
OUR DAY OUT
'I still watch it today. The performances are exquisite. Shot on 16mm in just three weeks by a first time director working with a largely untrained cast it just seemed to be one of those charmed ventures in which everything just fell into place. A great bonus, for me, is the understated but stunning Nic Jones version of Teddy Bears Picnic over the final credits.'
ONE FOR THE ROAD
First performed at Manchester Contact Theatre where it was originally advertised as TUPPERWARE MAN. Following legal threats from the Tupperware Company, however, the title was changed to PAINTED VEG AND PARKINSON for its opening in November, directed by Caroline Smith.
A two part film for BBC Schools television programme Scene.
DAUGHTERS OF ALBION
Written for ITV's first Plays for Pleasure season and produced by Yorkshire ITV.
STAGS AND HENS
Written while Willy Russell was a Fellow in Creative Writing at Manchester Polytechnic and performed by the students on closed circuit television. Revised as a stage play for the Everyman Theatre where it was directed by Chris Bond.
POLITICS AND TERROR
Originally written for the Granada arts magazine 'Celebration'. Broadcast in 1978 and later published as part of an anthology for schools. Not currently available.
'BAND ON THE RUN'
Commissioned by McCartney Productions Limited and written with Mike Ockrent, as yet unproduced.
Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Mike Ockrent, starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston. First performed at the RSC's Warehouse in June 1980 the play then transferred to the Piccadily Theatre in September where it ran for the next three years winning many awards for its author and cast. The original production was followed by two highly successful national tours and a long run at the Liverpool Playhouse in a production directed by the author.