Our Day Out as a Genre of Social Realism.

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Garth Chamberlain    

Our Day Out as a Genre of Social Realism

It has often been said that Our Day out belongs to the Genre of Social Realism. Willy Russell uses situations that are to life and that seem realistic to write this play. The play Our Day Out is about how an inner city school in Liverpool takes their remedial students on a trip. The teachers have not planned their day out and when the disciplinarian of the school joins them, this creates a recipe for disaster. However, the play is not written as a story about the school trip, it uses the social situations and humour involved in the children’s activities on the trip to exploit some of the more serious issue that existed at the time. The issues explored in the play are the social deprivation and the harsh reality of the children’s lives.

Willy Russell’s play, Our Day Out based on the real life experiences which he had whilst he was a teacher at a comprehensive school in Liverpool.  Russell uses the situations he found himself in whilst on a school trip to create this exciting play. He takes the personalities of ordinary, real life people and refines their most prominent qualities, such as the liveliness found in Reilly and Digga, the simplicity of Carol Chandler and the crafty nature of Mrs Kay. This helps to create characters that are more believable and allows the play come across as very realistic. Russell’s choice of each characters’ personality is very important to the meaning of his play.

Carol Chandler, one of the play’s pivotal characters, appears early in the opening scene, where she is rushing off to school clutching a “plastic bag” and “half eaten sandwich.” We are immediately given the imagery of a less fortunate society, where the kids have to use a plastic bag as opposed to a normal school bag. He also uses what she says to show how society felt towards the kids in that neighbourhood. When arguing with Mr Briggs, Carol says that “you hate all the kids” and that if they had a nice place to play “we’d smash it up.” Russell tries to show how people in all societies have stereotyped views against such children and that even today; people do just “drive by.” Another way Russell illustrates these views is through Ronny, the bus driver. Straight away, Ronny will not let the kids on the bus because they have not been “checked”, “Y’ can’t believe kids”.  As he usually does the “better schools”, he is stereotyping the kids, to mean trouble. Mrs Kay then changes Ronny’s views. She manipulates the situation by drawing sympathy from him through how she describes the kids’ situation. She describes them as “looking and longing and never getting.” Although Mrs Kay is using this as a way to break down his integrity, what she says is realistic. Some children roam the “cold cruel streets” and do not have the opportunity to have such pleasures as “lemonade and chocolate.” I think that Russell is trying to highlight the attitudes and stereotypical views associated with the children at the time.

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One of the main elements of this play is the conflict that occurs between Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs. Russell has created two contrasting characters, both of which have extreme views towards teaching philosophies. Mr Briggs is the more traditional teacher and is the schools disciplinarian. Mrs Kay, the liberal teacher is described as the “mother hen”. Russell uses the conflict between these characters to show two very different, yet feasible views of the reality, which the children face. Mrs Kay thinks that she will “never teach them” and that she is in a job that is “designed to ...

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