Willy Russell was born in Whiston, near Liverpool, in 1947. He grew up in a left-wing household and left school with one O-level in English. His dad, at various times, worked in the mines, in a factory, ran a fish and chip shop and also ran a library-on-a-bicycle, transporting books in two suitcases strapped to the sides of his bike. After leaving school at 15 and becoming a hairdresser, by the age of 20 Willy felt the need to return to education and, after leaving university, he became a teacher at a comprehensive school in his home city.
Willy Russell's plays tend to revolve around a number of issues . All of his four most famous plays, Our Day Out, Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers, revolve around women, whom Russell portrays sensitively and with compassion. Russell himself remembers growing up in a house where the men went out to work and where his childhood life was therefore dominated by his mother and aunts. When a hairdresser, Willy Russell generally styled ladies' hair, and did this for six years.
Many of Willy Russell's plays are also to do with class. Russell believed that the class you belong to determines - to a large extent - your chances in life. In Blood Brothers, these differences are extreme, and Russell describes them very dramatically. In the play, class is an active and destructive force, infiltrating Mickey's life, and eventually destroying both brothers. Russell shows the class divisions as both brothers long for aspects of the other's life - 'I wish that I could be like my friend'. The class divide wins out in the end and destroys them both.
Willy shared many similarities to his arguably most famous character, Rita. He was born in 1947 to a working class family in Merseyside and he was not academically talented at school, like Rita. He initially went on to follow Rita's choice of career - a women's hairdresser. However he preferred to sit in the back room writing away. At first, he wrote entertaining...