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“Our Day Out” is a political play. Willy Russell wants us to think about his characters and the world that they inhabit. What is your response to the drama, and the way it is told?

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Introduction

"Our Day Out" is a political play. Willy Russell wants us to think about his characters and the world that they inhabit. What is your response to the drama, and the way it is told? Set in a Liverpool of 1977, Willy Russell's play follows a rare school outing, in a dreary, dull and dilapidated environment. The situation is choked with deprivation and injustice, in a post-industrial and lifeless period in the city, in a working-class society. The local school is on its way to Conway Castle in Wales, the kids full of enthusiasm, anticipation and expectations of a 'New World.' The children are remedial, many unable to read or write, their hopes of a successful future, long forgotten, the system condemning them to a life of mediocrity. Their behaviour is unruly, although it is perhaps understandable given their situation and upbringing. One particular child, 'Andrews,' admits to the teacher Mr Briggs that he has been smoking since he was eight years old. When asked what his parents think about it, he replies, "Me mum says nott'n 'bout it but when me dad comes home, he belts me...'coz I won't give him one." The children are so low in the social status that when Linda, a girl who fancies Colin the teacher, suggests to her friends that she wants to marry him, they think that she is absurd, and would end up marrying someone like her father. There is no escape from the truth. I feel that a particularly strong character is Mr Briggs. He is a disciplinarian teacher. He enters the coach in the last minute before they leave Liverpool, sent by the Headmaster, another symbol of authority. ...read more.

Middle

I feel that they do not do this to impress, but because they want to love something and maybe even be loved back. This is emphasised further, when the kids take the animals back to the coach. I would not call this stealing, as it is not immoral, but innocently amoral. They want the pets as a memento of 'that' happy day, as it is precious to them, but mostly because they want to love. Briggs is furious and disbelieving, and feels humiliated. He feels he has not retained the order and discipline the headmaster had set for him to keep. He felt that his methods of teaching were working, only to see them fail heavily. After returning the animals, he calls the children themselves "animals" and the coach leaves for Conway Castle. Conway Castle is a political scene, as the drama gets more and more overt. There is a confrontation again between the two teachers- a test of law and order. Later a dialogue full of polemics and tension starts. Mrs Kay tells Briggs that the kids CAN'T be taught, and that it's too late for them. She is unafraid of Mr Briggs, and states plainly, that the kids were rejects from the day that they were born. Mr Briggs objects to these views and declares that Mrs Kay is 'on their side.' He opposes her when she says that he is a fool if he thinks that remedial kids CAN be taught. "They were born to be factory fodder," she declares, and says, "You won't educate them, because no one wants them educating." ...read more.

Conclusion

In this witty, fast moving drama, Briggs has destroyed all the positive achievements that have been made. Carol has grown into an understanding of her predicament: becoming aware of the fact that she is trapped into her social situation by virtue of her background and abilities. The outing has done nothing to alleviate her situation; if anything it has given her an understanding of its true nature, making it worse. The clashes between Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay, creates the most tension in the play, and serves to focus on what type of education is appropriate for these types of pupils. Much of the play's humour arises from the gulf between the pupils and Briggs, and from their mutual incomprehension. It is also the source of its success. Even the title of the play is ambiguous and entertaining. The audience soon realise that in fact it is not the children's 'Day Out' but Mr Briggs' or even Carol's. I feel that Willy Russell has approached this drama in a pessimistic manner. From start to end, nothing has changed fundamentally. Briggs has reverted to type, the children have remained trapped in the cage they call Liverpool, and they have returned to the beginning both socially and geographically. The audience is left in indecision of the state of Briggs, as he remains frightened of change. Also, the audience is left to decide what they feel for the children- impatience, pity, anger, or sorrow? However, the humour in scenes such as the caf� and zoo also helps us to sympathise with them, and feel for them further. This circular structure aids to highlight the helplessness and the 'tunnel' that the kids are left in, and serves as a reminder that they will never be a success. ...read more.

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