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THE EFFECTS OF CHARACTER IN ACTION THE USE OF DRAMATIC DEVICES and
THE LAYERS OF MEANING IN LANGUAGE, IDEAS AND THEMES
Writers are influenced by the historical times in which they live.
Everyday of their lives, what they say and the way they act is
influenced by the time in which they live.
The 70s influenced Willy Russell in his writing. There are many
examples of this in Our Day Out such as the style of the fair and the
shop, the way the characters speak and the things that are going on,
for example the description of the economic slump at the time.
One of the reasons for Britain's industry being in decline was, that
it was unable to be competitive on price against other countries who
had new technology. The technology increased productivity and reduced
costs through the use of less labour. As a result, some of the main
industries in Britain had great financial difficulty and had to close
down or reduce the work force causing a loss in jobs and high
unemployment. This caused poverty and meant that people could not
afford decent property and had to move into council homes.
Class differences occurred, dividing people who had money and decent
homes from people with little money and poor homes or no home at all.
Willy Russell's writing was inspired by experiences when he was a
teacher at a comprehensive school. Whilst he was a teacher at the
school, he accompanied a teacher of a remedial department on a trip to
Conwy castle and a zoo. At the last minute a deputy head of
disciplinarian behaviour also joined the party creating a potential
recipe for disaster. During the course of the day the deputy head
relaxed and enjoyed himself, only to revert to his usual self at the
end of the day. In doing so, he destroyed all the positive
achievements of the day.
This play is about a progress class, which go on a trip for the first
time. Mrs Kay cares for the children a great deal and just wants them
to have fun as long as they don't hurt anyone or themselves. The
deputy head who joins the trip unexpectedly changes this and believes
they should be quiet and not have as much fun in order to learn.
As the day goes on the children get up to all sorts of mischief
including stealing. Eventually the deputy head finds out about this
and his attitude towards the kids deteriorated even further. Mr Briggs
just wants to get them back to school as soon as possible.
When put in a situation however, with one of the children threatening
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where they have a great time. However at the end of the day Mr Briggs
takes the negatives of him having fun and exposes them to the light.
At the start of the play you learn a bit about the children and the
type of lives that they live. They are living in the inner city of
Liverpool, which comes across as a poor area and where council houses
are situated. The first character introduced to us was Carol, a
younger girl who explains what the progress class is and that they are
going on a trip. She seems to lack intelligence and it doesn't seem as
if she is taught much at school. She also seems to have a very strong
CAROL "Don't y' know what the progress class is? It's Mrs Kay's class.
Y' go down there in the week if y' can't do readin' or sums or
writin'. If you're backward like."
LES "By Christ, I'll bet she's kept busy. They're all bloody backward
At the start we also meet two other main children, Reilly and Digga.
They used to be in the progress class.
REILLY "Yeh, well, we used to be in the progress class didn't we?"
SUSAN "But Brian, you're not in the Progress Class any longer, are
you? Now that you can read and write you're back in normal classes."
Here we learn that the people in the Progress Class cannot even read
or write, this shows us how deprived these children are and how they
don't even get much of a chance to learn. Even the head teacher has no
will to get them a decent education.
The way Carol relates to Les and Mrs Kay you get the feeling that they
are her ideal Mother and Father.
Reilly and Digga seem to know Mrs Kay well and seem comfortable with
her. She seems to know all of the children quite well and gets on well
with two other teachers Susan and Colin. All of the teacher's apart
from Mrs Kay seem to have an accent, although not as strong as the
When we are introduced to Mr Briggs, his relationship with Mrs Kay
seems as though he doesn't like her style of teaching, but Mrs Kay
proceeds in being friendly. She comes across as a laid back, caring
and friendly woman. Mr Briggs seems arrogant and passionate about
being professional. Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs are two different extremes.
Mrs Kay is laid back and caring, but Mr Briggs is strict and sees the
children there to be taught and not there to have fun.
DRIVER " you haven't checked them have y'?"
MRS KAY "Checked them? Checked them for what?"
DRIVER "Chocolate and lemonade! We don't allow it. I've seen it on
other coaches, madam; fifty-two vomitin' kids, it's no joke. I'm sorry
but we don't allow that."
The driver seems quite harsh and takes extreme measures. Mrs Kay
doesn't have the time to check the children for sweets and lemonade,
so she speaks with the driver, which is quite an amusing conversation.
MRS KAY "Just take a look at those streets. Ronnie, would you say that
they were the sort of streets that housed prosperous parents?"
Mrs Kay says a number of other things in order to make Ronnie feel
quite guilty and wrongful. She says how they don't even get to eat
chocolate. They look at it in the shop windows and wish they could
have it. When the driver gets back on the coach the kids hide their
chocolate and lemonade and Ronnie, to make himself feel more
comfortable, gives one of the kids some money to go and get some
sweets for all of them to share.
On the coach journey social disadvantage is shown many times in the
conversations people have. One instance is where Carol and Mrs Kay are
speaking, she asks if she would ever be able to live a better
CAROL "Know them places on the telly with gardens, an' trees outside
MRS KAY "You've got trees in Pilot Street, haven't you?
CAROL "They planted some after the riots. But the kids chopped them
down an' burnt them on bonfire night."
Reilly is also very unfortunate, we learn that his mother died ten
years ago and that he hasn't even seen his father in two years. The
writer doesn't say where he is living or who he is living with.
Andrew's doesn't have a very good home life either he has been smoking
for five years and his parents know about it. His mother and father
don't live together and his mother is a prostitute.
ANDREWS "Sir, he just comes round now an' then an' has a barney with
me mam. Then 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."
Mr Briggs seems quite upset about these children and their lives which
they live, he tells Andrew's to try and stop smoking. At first he
doesn't seem to understand what the children are telling him, it takes
him a while to realise how poor they are.
The kind of language between the teachers and the children also shows
social disadvantage, the children have a very limited vocabulary and
strong accents whereas the teachers don't. The children speak a
non-standard dialect, but the teachers speak the prestige form of
In the shop the kids disagree with the prices of the sweets and steal
because they can't afford it. The shopkeepers think they are getting
loads of money, to find out later that they didn't get anything. This
shows that they often steal, as they don't have much money and are
quite experienced at it. Some of them might even be encouraged by
their own parents to steal. On the coach Linda is explaining to Jackie
how she is going to marry someone with a decent income and treats
women with decency. Jackie doesn't see this as a reality.
JACKIE "Oh don't be mental. You'll never get a husband like sir.
You'll end up marryin' someone like your old feller."
When they go to the zoo none of the children have seen some of the
animals there and are quite confused at some of the things they see.
BRIGGS "And a bear is an extremely dangerous animal. You see those
claws, they could leave a really nasty mark."
ANDREWS "Could it kill y'sir?"
They don't even know simple animals like a bear. They obviously don't
have much interaction with animals and decide to take some with them,
they steal all sorts of small animals. But the zookeeper is quick
enough to get them in time to tell Mr Briggs. Initially when they were
at the zoo Mr Briggs was quite pleased with the children as they
seemed interested in the animals and were learning new things.
Each scene develops Willy Russell's concerns by making the situation
increasingly severe each time and how they don't seem to see anything
wrong with what they are doing. Also the way they question things for
example when Ronson and others are asking about the bear they seem to
At Conwy Castle the children don't seem interested in the castles
history much at all and are just running about screaming and playing,
Mr Briggs sees this as chaos and argues with Mrs Kay that it should
have been better organised and the kids should be sorted out more. I
believe this argument is very significant to the way the kids live and
shows Willy Russell's concern very well.
MRS KAY "It's a shame really isn't it? We bring them out to a
crumbling pile of rocks and mortar and they think they're in the
fields of heaven."
Mrs Kay understands very well how badly the children's lives are and
how there isn't a chance for them in the world to get a better
lifestyle than they have.
MRS KAY "There's no point in pretending that a day out to Wales is
going to be of some great educational benefit to them. It's too late
for them. Most of these kids were rejects the day they came into the
world. We're not going to solve anything today Mr Briggs. Can't we
just give them a good day out?"
Mr Briggs still disagrees with Mrs Kay and tells her so and accuses
her of having a bad attitude for a member of the teaching profession.
He basically says that he doesn't even think she should be a teacher.
Mrs Kay starts to loose her temper at Mr Briggs persistence.
MRS KAY "Well what's your alternative? Eh? Pretending? That they've
got some sort of future ahead of them? Even if you cared for these
kids you couldn't help them to make a future for them. You won't
educate them because nobody wants them educated."
Mr Briggs tries to reason with her but Mrs Kay gets carried away and
continues on building on her point she is trying to make to Mr Briggs.
At the beach Carol tells Mrs Kay that she doesn't want to leave Wales
and she doesn't want to go back home, Mrs Kay tries to explain to her
that she can't stay but she asks why. Mrs Kay tells her it's a special
day, she doesn't seem to take this information too well and wanders
off when Mrs Kay isn't looking.
Reilly persists in trying to flirt with Susan, so she goes and speaks
with him and he gets embarrassed.
When Mrs Kay realises that Carol is missing she asks Susan and Colin
if they had seen her, but they hadn't seen her for hours. In the panic
as a last resort she asks Mr Briggs who doesn't seem too impressed or
BRIGGS "All I can say is it's a wonder you haven't lost half a dozen
Colin can't hold back any more of his anger towards Mr Briggs and
starts to get involved.
COLIN "Listen Briggs, it's about time someone told you what a berk
BRIGGS "And you listen! Sonny! Don't try telling me a thing, because
you haven't even earned the right. Don't you worry, when we get back
to school your number's up, as well as hers (MRS KAY.) And you
(SUSAN.) Yes I saw what was going on between you and Reilly. When we
get back I'll have lot of you."
MRS KAY "Would you mind postponing your threats until we find Carol
Chandler? At the moment I'd say the most important thing is to find
BRIGGS "Don't you mean try and find her."
The relevance of this little argument is later on the cliff at first
Mr Briggs was really irate and wants to get back school as soon as
possible, then things take a twist. Mr Briggs goes up on the cliff to
look for Carol with success. Mr Briggs starts to tell her off, then
Carol tells him to stay away from her, which shocks Mr Briggs. He
obviously doesn't expect a pupil to shout back at him. He does as she
wishes and tells her to just come down. She just tells him to go down
on his own.
CAROL "Tell Mrs Kay she can go home without me. I'm stoppin' here, by
BRIGGS "Now you just listen to me. I've had just about had enough
today, just about enough and I'm not putting up with a pile of
silliness from the likes of you. Now come on!"
CAROL "Try an' get me an' I'll jump over."
BRIGGS "Listen you stupid girl, get yourself over here this minute."
This continues for a while when Carol says something which seems to
hurt Mr Briggs a bit and this makes him soften up.
CAROL "What are you worried for eh? You don't care do y'? Do y'?"
BRIGGS "What? About you?. Listen, if I didn't care why would I be up
here now, trying to stop you doing something stupid?"
CAROL "Because if I jumped over, you'd get into trouble when you get
back to school. That's why Briggsy, so stop goin' on. You hate me."
Carol continues to say how he hates her and all of the kids, she seems
to realise reality a bit more and knows how to get Mr Briggs. These
scenes show Willy Russell's concerns to us through Carol and Mr
Briggs. Carol hasn't got a chance to live somewhere nice, and how
throughout her life because of her poor status, her social life would
be affected. In this scene Mr Briggs and Carol seem to bond a bit,
Carol threatening to jump off the cliff increases the drama.
Mr Briggs lightens up after he gets Carol down and he even tells the
driver to take them to the fair.
They go to the fair and before they leave to add a bit of comedy after
the seriousness at the cliff, Ronson asks Mr Briggs if they can go
The social environment of the fair influences Mr Briggs; I wouldn't
imagine him to be wearing a cowboy hat anywhere else.
When they get back to Liverpool Reilly realises how horrible the place
he lives in actually is and some of the others seem to as well.
Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun at the fair even Ronny who at the
beginning was incredibly weary of the kids getting on the bus with
sweets and lemonade.
The goldfish that Carol won in the bag is like herself, she is stuck
in the inner city of Liverpool and it is almost impossible for her to
get out of her lifestyle. The concerns of Willy Russell in this play
are very much 70s related and I believe that it was probably written
near the end of the 70s or early 80s. I don't think that all of Willy
Russell's concerns are still relevant in today's life, there aren't
many factory jobs but there are many other jobs that require little
qualification. Although this is the case there are still problems of
social disadvantage present, people are split up into classes and if
someone wears cheap clothes for example they will get teased at school
or people look down on them.