Our Day Out by Willy Russell
The popular play and TV series our day out, written by Willy Russell was set in Liverpool in the 1970 ‘s. At this time Britain was in the middle of an economic recession and huge job losses were a result of this. Because of the high unemployment levels, social deprivation was at a high, with many families being unable to afford proper food or clothing for their children for example.
Many of the men who lived in Liverpool in the early 1970’s would of worked either at the docks or in the factories, which were generally the only jobs the men could get, the few business people of the city also lost their jobs when Britain hit the recession so the unemployment levels were astronomically high. The story is based around a group of kids from a Liverpool school who go on a day out to Conway castle in Wales. The trip is aimed at the children who go to progress class which is a special class that the kids who cant read or write properly attend.
There are two very contrasting teachers in the play who want to treat the kids in totally different ways; these are Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay. Whilst Mr Briggs wants the trip to be for educational purposes Mrs Kay wants the children to have a good day away from Liverpool. Willy Russell uses the idea of a school day out as a technique of presenting his views to the audience, he uses the characters to express his views as he puts his thoughts into their mouths and we learn many things just through the general conversations of the children.
The first example of this we see is when Carol is speaking about their surroundings on the bus, “Isn’t it horrible eh miss. ” This is Carol talking to Mrs Kay about Liverpool, she describes it as dirty and that she likes the nice places. Willy Russell has used Carol, as a mouthpiece to tell his readers exactly what Liverpool was like in the 70’s and therefore the storyline is more effective. Throughout the play Russell continues to use the characters to express his own views in a more realistic way. “They’re must be a lot going they’re all bloody backward round here”
This is said in the opening scene by Les who is talking to Carol about the trip, it is apparent that Russell wants to make it clear that the standards of education at he time were very poor due to social deprivation. The writer uses a lot of humour and contrasts it with more serious matters to keep the audience interested, when Ronson is speaking to Mr Briggs Russell adds a moment of humour, “Just where do you think you are? ” Ronson replies, “Wales sir”. Another good example of this is on the coach when Andrews is talking to Mr Briggs, “What do your parents say? ” Andrews then replies. Sir sir me mum says nott-n but when me dad comes in he belts Me. ”
“What because you smoke? ” “No because I wont give him one sir! ” We find out more things about Andrews and his background as the play unfolds, again the conversation of the characters enlightens us the viewers about Andrews. When he is asking Digga and Reilly for a cigarette he claims he has no money but Digga insists, “She’s always with the blacks off the boats your mum and They’re loaded them blacks. ” This is suggesting that Andrews mum is a prostitute, which indicates that she is very poor and has to resort to selling herself.
This isn’t the only suggestion we get that Andrews is poor, when he offers Reilly half of his sandwiches for a cigarette. Reilly declines, as the filling is jam, “I hate jam! ” Although jam is thought to be very nice sandwich filling it is also the cheapest way to make a sandwich, this is an indication that social deprivation is present in Andrews household as they do not have enough money to buy good food. Social deprivation is a phrase we use to describe an economic state or group of people, for instance if people cant afford good food they might fall ill which leads to time off school and resulting in poor standards of education.
The fact that the family or group of people are poor and don’t have much money has indirectly led to their lack of education and job prospects, Andrews is a great example of this. Another character that fits into the socially deprived bracket is Carol from the very start we learn a lot about her and her background. In the opening scene when she is talking to les it is apparent that she is very excited about leaving Liverpool for a day.
“Agh les I wanna get t school. ” This is because the progress class are going to Conway. In the opening scene we learn much more than this about Carol as the narrator introduces her. Carol rushes along the street wearing her school uniform, which Doubles as a street outfit and her Sunday best. She is eating half a Sandwich and clutching a supermarket carrier bag. ” This little passage at the beginning of the play is telling us that Carol’s uniform are probably the only clothes she has as she wears them even on Sundays, as well as eating her supposed lunch in the morning suggesting that she may not be given much food at home. And finally the supermarket carrier bag, the majority of school kids have a strong holdall or backpack but carol has to use a carrier bag.
All these pints suggest that carol comes from a very poor background as well as being socially deprived. This is an occasion when Russell doesn’t use a character as a mouthpiece, which makes the play more realistic. Carol is not very bright and has a very bad memory, this is clear to see throughout the play as Russell emphasises this, “It’s somewhere far away ii forget. ” This is again in the opening scene where Carol is talking to Les; she hasn’t got a clue where she is going only that it is far away. We see memory loss like this from Carol on many more occasions, “Where we goin miss? “Carol . . . Miss Duncan has just told you Conway. ”
Then Carol goes on to ask, “Is that in England miss eh? ” “Will we have to get a boat? ” This makes it apparent that Carol doesn’t have much knowledge about the country, which suggests she may not always go to school. Another instance where Carol is shown to be deprived is when they are at Conway castle; she is speaking to Mrs Kay, “Miss I want to stay here and look at the lake. ” Carol was looking at the sea and we can gather that she has never seen the sea before. Russell has added lines like these deliberately to emphasise what the situation was like in Liverpool at the time.
Carol obviously knows that she is living in a poor area, as she wants to stay in Wales “Miss when do we have to go, I want to stay here. ” Carol continues to say similar things throughout the day and eventually takes things into her own hands: In the play there is a huge conflict between the two teachers Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay, They have totally different views and ideas about what the trip should be for. At the beginning of the play Mr Briggs persuades the Head to let him go on the trip so we can see he wants to be in charge rather than Mrs Kay.
However Mrs Kay isn’t about to let Mr Briggs take over the trip and in her opinion ruin it as we can see from the text, “No you listen Mr Briggs!! Teach them? Teach them what? Nobody want them Educating. ” Here is where Mrs Kay really loses her temper with Mr Briggs, as he wants to run the trip his way. Mr Briggs seems like he is never going to change his views about the trip and when at the beach doesn’t want anything to do with either Mrs Kay or the children as he sits on a rock away from the group. It isn’t Mr Briggs attitude about the trip it is his general attitude with the children, which Mrs Kay Doesn’t like.
Russell makes this attitude apparent right from the start with, Mr Briggs language towards the children, “You have some real bright sparks here Mrs Kay, a right Bunch. ” This sort of language tells us that Briggs is wanting to discipline the children and isn’t bothered whether they have a good time or not. “There are a few of em I could sling off right now! ” This is again showing Briggs attitude towards the kids. On the other hand Mrs Kay is quite the opposite to Mr Briggs as she isn’t really bothered about educating the children as she just wants them to Have a good time away from Liverpool which Is a first for many of the progress class.
He is very caring and helpful towards the children and wants to listen to what they have to rather than just dismissing their thoughts as rubbish. “Look Carol, were going on a coach you can get on now. ” Although carol isn’t very bright Mrs Kay is very nice to her and tries to explain in the nicest way possible. Mrs Kay is also friendly with the older students like Digga and Reilly and has a joke with them, an example of this is when they both ask to go out on the trip, Mrs Kay says, “(Smiling) I know what your like, you’ll just hide round the
Corner and say you can go. ) Mrs Kay is used as a mouthpiece in one instance when she delivers a speech about the kids, these are the views of Willy Russell and we learn what he really thinks about the kid of Liverpool at the time. ” Its too late, Most of them were rejects on the day they were born. ” And again, “Most of them were born for factory fodder but now the factories have closed down they cant even be that. This conflict is a very interesting part of the play and Willy Russell has added it to add a bit of drama into the play.
People will have different views about who was the better teacher for the children but Russell just used them as characters to get across his own points of view. Willy Russell also adds another considerable contrast in the play; this being the poor terraced Liverpool and the much wealthier Wales. When the children leave Liverpool they have entered a whole new world in their eyes, as they are able to hold pets, which they wont of ever done before. This is put into the play to make us understand the situation better.
Carol is very aware of the difference between Wales and Liverpool and when talking to Mrs Kay she is saying how she would love to live in a better place than Liverpool. She is continually saying how nice Wales is which suggests that she has never been very far away from Liverpool to see anywhere nice. Another way in which Willy Russell makes the play and TV series more realistic is the use of stage directions, which are very useful in some cases, for instance when Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay are talking the stage directions ‘paint a clearer picture’ of what is happening.
A television program is a visual medium; in the film Russell uses a visual metaphor in a scene at the zoo. The scene is a very important one and it is where the children are with Mr Briggs commenting on a bear which is in a deep pit. The pit is obviously for the purpose of the bear not to get out, and the bear seems very unhappy about being kept in captivity. Although it may not seem as much of a deal, Russell specifically uses this bear to crate a parallel image for the children’s life. The way the children are stuck in there socially deprived area and are not able to get out, and this can cause anger within the children.
Russell also tells us things through the conversation; one child disagrees with Briggs when he says: “If it’s lived there all its life, it wont know any other Form of life” We know that this is not the message that Russell wants us to take into mind, so Russell uses the boy as a mouthpiece: “Its mad because its locked up and cant escape” This is what Russell wants us to think, and he wants us to think this about the children also. Russell uses the bear as a comparison to the children, as they cannot escape social deprivation easily, the bear can’t escape its captivity.
The play has an emotional climax, as Carol is edging closer and closer to the edge of the cliff stressing to Mr Briggs that f he continued to approach her she would jump off. Carol is on the cliff because she doesn’t want to go home and wants to stay in Wales. In this scene Willy Russell makes Carol edge nearer and nearer to the edge to make it dramatic and to create a tense atmosphere amongst his audience. Russell also adds another dramatic scene where carol disobeys Briggs and eventually swears at him, “Don’t be friggin stupid. ”
This a very dramatic because Carol has never done anything like this before. After Carol is safe Russell also adds another twist into the story, as Briggs seems to be a changed person as he is laughing and joking with the teachers and children. He appears to be having some great for which is a surprise in itself, after what happened In the first part of the day, however when Briggs turns out to be not that nice after all we discover another technique that Russell uses to keep everyone’s attention until the end. Our expectations are dashed when Briggs exposes the film and reveals his true self to us all.
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