The new production of Educating Rita at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake has already sold out.

It is 40 years since award-winning playwright Willy Russell wrote the play and the new version stars Stephen Tompkinson as frustrated university professor Frank, opposite Jessica Johnson as Rita, his hairdresser student so desperate to learn.

Willy, has been there through the rehearsal process and says it will be set "firmly in its own time" of 1979. "I'm involved as I would be in any significant new production," he says.

"There have been productions that have tried to set it in a contemporary setting, but the difference between education today and 1979 is so vast it doesn't do the play any favours to make it a contemporary tale.

"People don't see education as a route to salvation in the way they did when this was written.

"The idea then of working class people returning to education was in the air, it was a new and vibrant thing, and the collision of those worlds, of the non-educated and the rather elite red brick university, was a massive collision, but all of that has gone now.

"The Franks of the education world today wouldn't have the luxury of being able to teach a girl outside his curriculum who came to his office once a week, Frank would be responsible for at least 300 students today. We're so far away from 1979, that there's actually something kind of exotic about setting it in its own time."

Educating, Rita, Theatre by the Lake, until April 27.