How Russell uses dramatic impact to reveal character and convey his views
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The title of the play is ‘Our Day Out’ Willy Russell wrote it in 1977. He was born in Whinston Lancashire. He grew up in Knowsley; a model village set in the countryside outside Liverpool. Once Russell had qualified as a teacher he worked at Shortfields Comprehensive School in Liverpool where his experiences lead him directly into the writing of ‘Our Day Out’. While it was written in 1977 its roots were firmly planted In Russell’s experiences at Shorfields comprehensive. Clearly all the vital elements of Russell’s play were implicit on the day trip for the remedial department at Shortfields.
It has many fast moving scenes. Some humorous others even depressing. The story is quite powerful and get you thinking about many things. It was designed for television in 1977 and made into a musical in 1983; there would be many difficulties to put it onto stage. The problems would consist of Mr Briggs car approaching the zebra crossing, having a lot of children on the stage at once and having the buildings on the stage especially the school etc The play is set in Liverpool in a very run down area and extremely deprived, the behaviour and problems that the children have are very visible throughout the play.
The play is about a progress class, which consists of children who are not very intelligent. They are in the progress class, as they do not have very high standards and are below average when it comes to intelligence. Their teacher is Mrs Kay. She is taking the progress class to Conwy castle in Wales for a day trip. The play is emphasising how run down and poor the children are and how when they go on a trip it’s really exciting and they become extremely vigorous. While the children are on the trip they cause a lot of chaos and mischief.
They do many things that they shouldn’t be doing. They really enjoy the day though and don’t want to go home. The trip and class frequently bother Mr Briggs throughout the play. Mr Briggs is not used to the type of children who are on the trip that he is supervising, he was asked to go on the trip by the headmaster. He teaches the children in the main part of the school who are more intellectual. The headmaster asked Mr Briggs to assist Mrs Kay on the trip as he thinks Mrs Kay is not capable and has the control to take the children on a trip.
She is more like a mother or a friend to the children than the teacher she is meant to be. ‘She always reminds me of a mother hen rather than a teacher’. At the core of the play the contrast lies between Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs and their respective educational philosophies. Mr Briggs is more concerned that the trip, in which he had no part in organising, should be an educational experience for the pupils and is appalled both by her attitude and handling of the pupils. The characters are deliberately created as opposites.
None of the other charters in the play are created in as much detail as Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs. The language used by the pupils in the progress class is clearly recognisable that they are from the inner city of Liverpool. Their use of slang and dialect would be matched by the local accent and would contrast strongly with the standerds of English used by Mr Briggs. There are many differences between Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs. The completely different opinions and views of Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs towards the children cause disagreements and tension during the play.
The children really do not like Mr Briggs as he is very strict and has no respect for them. Mr Briggs also has a different outlook about having fun to the views the children have ‘Briggs is climbing aboard. He stands at the front and stares and glares. The kids sigh- he is a cloud on the blue horizon’. He can also be very sarcastic and ironic towards the students. ‘ To enjoy a coach trip we sit in our seats. We don’t wander up and down the aisle . We talk quietly to our neighbour, not shout at our mates four seats down…
And we don’t do anything else. (Throughout the speech the kids look disappointed))’. Mr Briggs likes order and control. While, on the other hand, Mrs Kay is completely the opposite, all she wants is fun, fun, and fun. ‘ Briggs with a group of ordered children standing behind him point to a spot high up on the castle. The kids look up bored… in another part of the castle kids are playing… Mrs Kay sits on a bench’ She seems to be able to relate to the children very well unlike Mr Briggs ‘ Mrs Kay smiles at her and links her arm.
At the back of the coach they are all stifled and bored by Mr Briggs presence’. You can tell that Mrs Kay wants the children to have exuberance as she makes several stop off stops on the way to Conwy castle although Mr Briggs does not concur ‘As an extra bonus, we’ve decided to call in here and have an hour at the zoo (cheers) Look we can’t’. The way Mrs Kay acts really irritates Mr Briggs this is because he disagrees with her way of treating the children. He believes she should have a firmer hand on them.
For all these reasons the pupils respect Mrs Kay but she certainly is not as popular with the headmaster or with Mr Briggs. For Mr Briggs it’s the total opposite he is well liked by the headmaster but is not at all admired with the pupils or Mrs Kay. Carol Chandler is a thirteen-year-old girl. She is very deprived and comes from a dilapidated area in Liverpool. You can tell that she is hard done by right from the very beginning in the stage directions ‘ Carol rushes along the street wearing a 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 shows that she only has one outfit, which she has to wear all the time, she doesn’t have a proper school bag also that she does not sit down for a proper breakfast, with her family in the morning. She is in the progress class, which means she needs extra help with her education. You can tell that she does not like her home life. She hopes she can just get away from it all ‘ isn’t it horrible… The dirt an’ that. I like them nice places… well, d’ y’ think I’d be able to live in one of those places? Carol brings this sort of conversation up many times in the play.
She also asks the same question many times throughout the play ‘ Miss, when do we have t’ go home! What’s the matter love? Aren’t you enjoying it? Yeh but I don’t wana go home’. This shows the desperation she is facing. It also shows how much it means to her about not going home. That’s the reason she wanders off to the cliff, to get away she thinks all her problems will go if she can just get away. At the beach, another one of Mrs Kay’s bonus stops, Carol Chandler flees to the cliff without anyone knowing.
This is the most important scene in the play this is because all the disagreement has built up so high and comes to a head, that Mr Briggs has a turning point and becomes someone different. Someone who he thought he would never be. Carol wanders off to the cliff, as she does not want to go back to her deprived home life. Mr Briggs finds her he is the wrong person to have found her. As he sees her he approaches her whilst shouting at her, he asks her who gave her permission to go to the cliff. This is the wrong approach and Mrs Kay would have handled the situation much more calmly, being able to relate to Carol.
The tension is building up and up. Carol threatens to jump if Briggs comes near her and she really means it. You can tell how hazardous the situation is that she is in, she really would jump if it saved her from going back to her home life. The friction is really building up between Briggs and Carol. The pressure is on Mr Briggs to talk her out of not jumping. He is very confrontational and does not really understand the problem and what is going on. Carol tells Mr Briggs ‘Don’t you come near me! ‘ which is extremely out of character for Carol. Throughout this scene Russell pauses several times causing tension to build up and up.
Briggs thinks that he can’t take anymore stress and that the incident with Carol has just pushed him to his limits. He has had to put up with an awful lot during the day. First it was the theft of sweets at the roadside cafi?? etc. Then he had trust in the children at the zoo, but they betray him by taking many of the zoo animals aboard the coach. Giving a bad name to the school and the school been banned to go there on future trips to that zoo. ‘ I’ve had just about enough, and I’m not putting up with a pile of silliness from the likes of you’, this also shows that he does not regard her as an important person.
Her disobedience is really getting to him and he is starting to take it personally ‘ just what are you trying to do to me’. You can tell that she is really despondent at home at home and that it really means a lot to her if she stays ‘I wana stay her. Where it’s nice’. Even though she is in the progress class, she is acting quite intelligent. She can see through Mr Briggs ‘That’s why briggsy! So stop going on you hate me’. Carol is clever enough to know that she will never have the chance for her aspiration to come true ‘Don’t be friggin stupid’.
Then Mr Briggs starts to talk to Carol as his new self and it makes her realise that it wouldn’t be any good staying. She also knows it would be hopeless plan, down to her specific disabilities getting in the way. ‘If I stayed though, it wouldn’t be no good’. Even though she has realised she can’t stay she still feels really desperate ‘I’m not goin’ back though’. Then Briggs says something that is really out of character for him to say to a student ‘please’. Then all of sudden he started to sound like Mrs Kay and that is the beginning of the turning point for Mr Briggs when he turns into a new him. You’re as though you given up on life already.
You sound as for you life is just ending’. Carol then moves very close to the edge. Mr Briggs very aware of the danger holds out his hand to her, which is showing that he is not threatening her but showing a peace gesture. This makes her feel reassured and she starts to see the funny side of what is going on. ‘Carol looks at him and a smile breaks across her face… Sir, you should smile more often y’ look great when y’ smile’. She still wonders what will happen to her when she gets back to school for causing trouble, ‘but what about when we get back t’school? . She has almost given in but is still holding strongly onto her worries and wonders. Just as she gives in she ‘ slips.
Briggs outstretched arm grabs out quickly and manages to pull her to him’. He holds on to her with all his strength. Fortunately he manages to pull her up and she is secure. When Mr Briggs seems to turn into someone new, the children love it, but unfortunately for them it’s not a permanent fixture. When the coach comes back to Liverpool, it hits Mr Briggs. ‘Briggs with Andrews asleep next to him sees the familiar surroundings and the kids hanging about the streets.
He sits up puts his tie back to normal goes to straighten his hair and feels the cowboy hat’. Its home to Mr Briggs when the coach arrives into Liverpool and makes him realise the responsibility and concern of his reputation. In the film the camera shot of the school behind Mr Briggs emphasises his feelings of responsibility, his concern and reputation. Also when the camera snaps Mr Briggs singing on the back of the coach with all the children. There is a sudden fade out and echo of the music and noise, which could symbolise that Briggs changed attitude, is just a snap shot and will fade just as the film exposed to the light.
The film contained many pictures of Mr Briggs enjoying himself. That’s why he exposes it to the light, as he wants it all forgotten with no memories left remaining. It seems as if he is disappointed with himself, as he has relax with the children. The Play ‘Our Day Out’ is not really relevant today. Special need classes are not all about fun for the pupils. The pupils are educated just the same as other pupils their age just with more help. The teachers are not like Mrs Kay and believe there is no point teaching them. As teachers today usually believe in trying to educate everyone.
Although, there is still run down areas in some places so the story could be half-relevant to today. My view on the play is that it is very good and extremely well written, it makes you feel as if you are they’re watching every scene happen. This is a good thing and means that Russell has done very well at describing the scenes. The play keeps you gripped and hooked right until the end. It makes you feel as though you can’t put it down and every scene is left at a cliff hanger, making you want to read on and find out what bizarre thing happens next.