From Rita to, er, Rita...

Philip Bretherton, who was born and bred in Preston. He will be playing Frank in Educating Rita at the Lowry.

Philip Bretherton, who was born and bred in Preston. He will be playing Frank in Educating Rita at the Lowry.

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PRESTON-born Philip Bretherton will be playing Frank in the Willy Russell comedy Educating Rita at Manchester’s Lowry Theatre. He talks to AASMA DAY about returning to his Lancashire roots.

There’s not many who can say they have walked the cobbled streets of Corrie as an actor, but Philip Bretherton has actually completed a hat-trick on the long running soap.

Chuckling to himself, the 58-year-old says: “That’s if you include the one line I had in Coronation Street in 1977 when I was a ‘man in a pub’.

“Then I was in the soap again in the mid 1990s where I played someone’s boyfriend, but that was just for a couple of weeks.

“But my biggest stint in Corrie came in 2005 when I played a character called Ian Davenport, who was a rather unpleasant luxury car salesman who had an affair with Sally.

“I was in the soap for about six or seven months and I loved it.”

Philip, who grew up in Penwortham, near Preston and went to Cop Lane Primary School followed by Hutton Grammar School, got the acting bug at a young age and has a variety of theatre and television credits to his name – although he describes himself as a “jobbing actor”.

Philip, who has been with his partner actress Sherry Baines since 1988, explains: “I have always been a jobbing actor.

“I have picked up stuff where I can and have worked in warehouses and kitchens in between acting roles.

“I never really had a plan. I just enjoyed acting and it was what I wanted to do.”

Philip’s mum Ann, who has since passed away, was an English Teacher at Penwortham Secondary School and used to direct shows at the school which Philip used to love going to watch.

When he went to Hutton Grammar School after primary school, he started drama classes and says he had to take on a variety of “girls” roles before he was allowed to take on male parts.

Philip explains: “Because it was a boys’ school, when you started the drama classes, you had to play girls’ parts before you proved yourself enough to take on the male roles.”

After leaving school, Philip went on to Manchester University where he studied English and Drama. After completing that, he went to London to try and pick up any acting work he could.

Philip admits: “It was hard and I worked in offices, warehouses and kitchens and then I got acting work in Fringe companies which were really taking off then.

“The first acting role I got in theatre was at the Watford Palace and then in 1980, I got a role playing Brad in The Rocky Horror Show which was touring in Germany.”

Since then, Philip’s theatre roles have included Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Six Degrees of Separation, The God of Carnage, As You Like It, and Blithe Spirit while his television credits have included Footballer’s Wives, Midsomer Murders, Coronation Street, As Time Goes By, Wing and a Prayer and Hollyoaks.

He also appeared in the short film The Foreigner.

Philip says: “Acting gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction and I always wanted to do something creative.

“With acting, you get instant gratification as you get the to see the reaction of the audience each time you perform.

“When you are touring, it is also great as you get to see different parts of the world and of this country and get paid for doing it!

“When you are in your 20s, another benefit is that you get to meet lots of women!”

Philip will be playing Frank in Willy Russell’s comedy Educating Rita and is looking forward to returning to his northern roots.

The intimate play, which will feature just Philip as Frank and Gillian Kearney from Casualty, Shameless and Brookside as Rita.

It tells the tale of brash, straight-talking Rita who aims to change her life and thinks the Open University is the
answer. Philip will play world weary and alcohol fuelled lecturer Frank, who is a failed poet and a self acknowledged: ‘appalling teacher of appalling students’.

He has just about given up when he agrees to tutor Rita for extra cash.

The unlikely pair form a bond as Rita starts to find herself and Frank finds a whole new lease of life.

Philip says: “Educating Rita is a great play which stands the test of time and this is the first time it will be shown in Manchester for about 20 years.

“It was made famous in the film with Michael Caine and Julie Walters and it is set in a period I can really identify with as it is set in a university environment at a northern university.

“I play an English tutor and that is the course I used to do so I can remember how my lecturers used to talk and how they used to dress.

“It is great for me to come back up north to perform as I now live in north London, but I still love the north.

“My brother and his family live in Preston and my partner’s mother lives in Blackpool, so I visit regularly and still get a regular hit of up north.”

Educating Rita begins tonight at the Lowry Quays Theatre and will run until Saturday October 12.