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How effective and realistic is Willy Russell's presentation of the school trip in 'our day out'?

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Introduction

How effective and realistic is Willy Russell's presentation of the school trip in 'our day out'? 'Our day out' was written as a television play in 1977 but taken directly from Willy Russell's personal experience of teaching in a Liverpool comprehensive school in 1974. Not only does Willy Russell's experience stem from his time in teaching but also from being a pupil at two Liverpool comprehensive schools, leaving at 15 with no qualifications. This gives him a good understanding of situations described in the play from the point of view of both children and teachers. Liverpool at that time had a large working class population and a lot of poverty, with huge social problems. Unemployment was growing and many of the children would have had little hope of a career and a good future. In those days children without academic aptitude in secondary education were often regarded as hopeless and left to sink or swim. Russell fully understood this as it was his own background. I believe that the school trip in 'our day out' is realistic because, not only is the characterisation excellent, both students and teachers are portrayed honestly and are given a lot of depth for such a short play, but also the dialogue is naturalistic. In addition, the general set up for the play is quite believable, the teacher of a remedial department organising a day trip, then at the last minute a disciplinarian deputy head joining the party, creating a potential recipe for disaster. ...read more.

Middle

Kay; they purposely flaunt the rules throughout the play and act tough. Finally, Reilly gets put in his place by Susan. I think they are realistic because this behaviour is typical of rebellious tough boys. And their dialog very believable. Andrews and some of the younger boys are there as a foil, mainly to Digga and Reilly. They are capable of misbehaviour by themselves, for example when they steal the animals from the zoo and steal from the sweetshop, but are also tempted into naughtiness by the older boys, as when Andrews smokes Reilly's cigarette and gets caught by Mr. Briggs. When this happens Mr. Briggs moves him and proceeds to question him about his habit of smoking. This conversation gives us a glimpse of Andrews' domestic situation: a mum who seems not to care and an absent and violent father. 'I dunno, sir, sir, he just comes round every now an' then an' has a barney with me mam. Then he goes off again. I think he tries to get money off her but she won't give him it though. She hates him. We all hate him.' His casual approach to this suggests to the audience that he is not the only one of the pupils who is in this type of situation. Mr. Briggs is shocked, thus outlining the class difference between them, and his complete lack of understanding of the children's lives. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Liverpudlian slang and quick dialogue throughout the play reflect everyday speech patterns. The only long speeches are when Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs are arguing over their philosophies. This is also realistic, as when someone feels strongly about a subject they will lay out their arguments extensively. Overall, "Our Day Out" is a realistic portrayal of the situation of working class remedial class children in Liverpool in the '70s. Willy Russell writes with a lively and accurate dialogue and authentic accent and language. His characters are given depth and sympathy although to some extent they are caricatures. However some of the situations are taken further than normal life for dramatic and comic value and in order to make the points effectively. The central points of the play are: firstly to highlight the problems facing children let down by the British education system and society in an economic recession; and secondly to make the point of Mrs Kay's philosophy that the individual has a right to experience joy in life regardless of their supposed potential within society. The fact that he uses his own experiences and that the play is set in the Liverpool of his upbringing gives greater realism to the action and makes it effective. The final scene of the play, as Carol walks off down the road, clutching her goldfish - a happy, smiling girl returning to her deprived life, but with her new-found knowledge of its limitations - is very poignant. She glances up to see Mr Briggs' car driving off after he has made the decision to revert to his old self. ...read more.

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