Willy Russell's Our Day Out

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Willy Russell's "Our Day Out"

Willy Russell has written many plays over the last thirty years, but

there is one feature that is common to all of them: the issue of

social and cultural background. This is the situation of the

characters; their surroundings; their class; the society in which they

are brought up, and the culture of that society. It is this that can

lead to the behaviour, feelings, opinions and general outlook of the

characters. Russell explores the effects that society and culture can

have on people in all his plays, but in none is it so poignant as in

'Our Day Out', the story of what happens when Mrs Kay takes her

Progress class out of inner-city Liverpool on a school trip to Conwy

Castle, Wales.

Throughout 'Our Day Out' the issue of social and cultural background

is ever-present, but it is discussed and conveyed in many different

forms; the colloquial dialect Russell uses; the symbolism that is

featured; the behaviour and attitudes of the children; the way that

people react to these children, and the insights we get into their

family lives.

Willy Russell himself said that he writes for the theatre because

'it's concerned with the spoken rather than the written word'. In 'Our

Day Out' we see the importance of the spoken word through the language

that the children use. Having grown up and taught at a Comprehensive

school in Liverpool, Russell knows the Liverpudlian dialect perfectly,

and he uses his knowledge to give a truly representative feel to the

play. The children use words such as 'agh'ey', 'ooer', and 'nott'n',

and the authentic language that the children use help to make the play

feel more real. Because Russell writes the words as they would be

spoken in a Liverpudlian acce...

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...ry isn't. The poignancy and intensity of the play is somewhat

masked in places by the comedy, but we do catch glimpses of the

hopeless, desperate situation these children are facing. As Mrs Kay

says, 'Ten years ago you could teach them to stand in a line, you

could teach them to obey, to expect little more than a lousy factory

job. But now they haven't even got that to aim for. There's nothing for

them to do, any of them; most of them were born for factory fodder,

but the factories have closed down.' Throughout the play this is the

underlying tone, and the subtle way that Russell conveys this message

heightens the effect when it comes. This day out is simply an oasis;

one day of fun out of their whole lives, and at the end of it we see

how the glimmer of something bright and beautiful makes it all the

harder to turn your eyes back to the grey and mundane.
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