The Characters of Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs in Willy Russell's Our Day Out

The Characters of Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs in Willy Russell's Our Day Out

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The Characters of Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs in Willy Russell's Our Day Out

On 28th December 1977, a play was televised on T.V for the first time.
The play, called "Our Day Out", written by Willy Russell, was about a
progress class going on a day out to Conwy Castle, in Wales.

It focuses on two main characters, Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs, both
teachers in an inner-city Liverpool school.

Both of these characters are very different in image, behaviour and
attitude to teaching.

Mrs Kay is a teacher of the progress class. She teaches and helps
children who have difficulty in everyday things like reading and
writing. Obviously these children are going to need lot more attention
and help than others, and for Mrs Kay, this means she has a lot of
time and patience for the children.

Mrs Kay feels what the kids feel.

"Ooh leave them. They've been cooped up for an hour. They'll want to
stretch their legs and let off a bit of steam."

On the other hand, Mr Briggs is more of a character that likes things
to be in order and everything to be in control. His speech id
described as "barking" and "staccato".

He teaches the examination class. Therefore he's not used to the
children on the day out, messing around. Throughout the play Mr Briggs
is frantic and frustrated. This is seen in the café scene.

"Brigs is frantic" "Stop! Slater…..walk"

Briggs doesn't seem to enjoy the company of the children.

"You've got some real bright sparks here, Mrs Jay. A right bunch"

In the coach, it is obvious that the children have no respect. Mrs Kay
doesn't set any rules but she addresses everyone with what she sees as
the aim of the day.

"We want everyone to enjoy themselves, think of yourselves, but think
of others as well"

But Briggs has been sent by the headmaster.

"I'd just like you to be there and keep an eye on things…. I get the
impression she sees education as one long game"

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And later on, he asks Briggs to "try and keep things in some sort of
order."

As soon as Briggs gets on the the coach it is clear that both pupils
and staff don't want him there.

"Colin: He's coming to keep an eye on us.

Susan: Make sure we don't enjoy ourselves"

He revokes everything that Mrs Kay says by explaining to the pupils
how to enjoy themselves.

"……..a lot of you haven't been on a school visit before so you won't
know how to enjoy yourselves. So I'll tell you…"

Mrs Kay, though, just sits quietly and lets the children get on with
it.

The next scene is in the roadside café. Throughout the scene, Briggs
is distracted by the fact that the children are inside, but the staff
are outside.

"Briggs: To be quite honest, Mrs Kay I think we should all be inside,
looking after them. Do you think it was wise just letting them all
pour in there at once?"

But later on in the scene, we find out that "it's not only the
children" he's concerned about.

"There's not only our school to think about, you know. There's others
who come after us and they're dependant upon the goodwill of the
people who run these places"

So this does show that Mr Briggs has a good side to him too, as he is
caring for other people as well as the children.

But he goes back to his original self, by snapping at Mrs Kay

"Mrs Kay: And I'll have to say this to you, Mr Briggs, I didn't ask
you to come on this trip"

Briggs: No, but the Headmaster did"

Another crucial scene is at the zoo. In this scene you really see the
contrast between Briggs and Kay. Briggs starts to calm down a bit and
really starts communicating with the children, instead of bellowing at
them.

He starts to talk to them about the animals. I think he starts to
enjoy himself because he has found that the children are attentive to
a subject that he finds appealing.

The children start to react differently to him.

"(The two girls link his arms. He stops)"

Obviously Briggs doesn't appreciate this, and when he tells them to
stop, the respond irritates him.

"Ag hey, Sir, the other teachers let y'link them"

Briggs suggests that he comes into Mrs Kay's progress class, and talk
about the animals. He meets up with Mrs Kay, and allows the children
to go off, because he "trusts" them.

This shows that Briggs doesn't really know the children all that well.
If it was Mrs Kay, she would let them explore, but she wouldn't
mention that she trusts them. She knows that the trust for the
progress class doesn't last for long.

The kids, as anticipated, defy his trust, as they steal the zoo
animals from the petting zoo.

Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay know nothing about it. But when the children are
on the coach, and the coach is just pulling away, the zoo keeper stops
the coach and gets on. It is later broadcast that the children did
steal the animals.

The zoo keeper lets Kay and Briggs know what he thinks of the
children.

"Children. They're not bloody children. They're animals. That's not a
zoo out there. This is the bloody zoo in here."

I think this is the moment that Briggs realises that what the zoo
keeper has said is actually true. Mr Briggs explodes!

"I trusted all of you, but it's obvious that trust is something you
know nothing about"

Mrs Kay, though, says nothing throughout the whole scene. She gives
the impression that she couldn't care less. I think this is one of the
aspects of a teacher that she lacks; therefore children take advantage
of her. They know that if they misbehave, they can get away with it.

Briggs orders that when the class get to Conwy Castle, the children
are split into 4 groups and each of the teachers to take them off.

The children that Briggs are responsible for are calm, controlled and
disciplined. But the others are allowing the children to gallop around
the castle.

Later on in the scene you see Mrs Kay as her usual self. She is
sitting talking to Carol and Andrews.

"Andrews: Miss, wouldn't it be great if we had something like this
round ours.

Carol: Miss. Couldn't have nothin' like this round our way could
they?.....we'd only wreck it wouldn't we?"

Their conversation is interrupted by Briggs. Without using any
manners, he demands that he talks to Mrs Kay.

"Briggs: You two … off! Go on. Move"

He finally decides to challenge Mrs Kay about the unreliability of the
trip. We then see both teachers different perspective of the children.

"Briggs: They're just like town dogs let off the lead in the country."

We know that this is what Briggs has thought all the way through the
play, but Mrs Kay shows a different side when she confesses to Briggs
how she feels about them.

"We bring them to a crumbling pile of bricks and mortar and they think
they're in the fields of heaven."

"Most of them were rejects on the day they were born"

Briggs is aghast!

"That's a fine attitude for a member of the teaching profession to
have"

Briggs threatens Kay!

"Now, either you take control of the children in your charge, or I'll
be forced to abandon this visit and order everyone home"

I think this shows that Briggs assumes that Mrs Kay will abide by his
word. This scene reflects the differences between the way both
teachers educate children.

Mr Briggs is used to being influential. What he says goes!!

Mrs Kay isn't in the slightest bit worried by Mr Briggs threat. This
shows that she is a laid back teacher and she doesn't care. I think
this would reflect on the children in the classroom. The kids realise
that they could do anything and she wouldn't care.

"Well…that's your decision. But I'm not going to let you prevent the
kids from having some fun. If you want to abandon this visit then
you'd better start walking because we're not going home. We're going
to the beach!"

This shows that Mrs Kay has put her foot down. I think she is the kind
of person that as soon as she sets her mind on something, she won't
let anything or anyone get in her way. But Mr Briggs is not used to
being told what to do and he repeats "The beach!?"

Whilst reading the beach scene we, again, see the dissimilarity of the
two characters. Briggs doesn't enjoy the beach. You can tell this by
watching his facial expressions and body language in the video.

Where as Mrs Kay seems to be enjoying herself. She plays games wit the
children and paddles in the sea.

She sometimes seems to ignore the children.

"Carol: (Trailing behind Mrs Kay) Miss when do we have to go home?"

But Mrs Kay continues to talk to the other children. They later play a
game of football, and it is in this period of time that Carol "wanders
off".

Once again Mrs Kay's laid back approach gets in the way off her
responsibility over the children. She is very calm about the
situation, but Briggs and the other staff aren't.

"Mrs Jay: I think she might have wandered off.

Briggs: You mean you've lost her"

Another of Mr Briggs characteristics is that he always jumps to
conclusions.

Briggs finds Carol at the top of a cliff. In this scene we witness
Briggs' character alter, because he now understands how the children
feel about him. I think this is because he finally realises that his
usual methods of addressing the children, isn't going to work this
time.

I also understand that Briggs is afraid, as Carol is so near to the
edge of the cliff and she threatens to jump. I think he's not
frightened about the fact that she's going to jump, but the fact that
his reputation and career is on the line.

For once the child is in control! It becomes obvious that Carol
doesn't enjoy going to school and living in Liverpool.

"I wanna stay here where it's nice"

When Briggs try's to plead with her to come down, she doesn't believe
that it's because he's concerned for her, she believes it's because
his career is at risk!

"Because if I jumped over, you'll get into trouble when you get back
to school. That's why, Briggsy!....You hate me"

I think this hits home on Briggs and he suddenly recognizes that this
is actually true. He tries to help Carol by praising her and trying to
make her believe that she can make it in life.

"What's to stop you working hard at school from now on, getting a good
job and then moving out here when you're old enough?"

But Carol identifies that this can't be true!

"Don't be friggin' stupid."

By the end I think Briggs realises that Carol does have a point. He
surprises the staff and children when he announces that he is taking
them to the fair. This is the point where he changes. I think he tries
to lead a different life, and uses it as an experiment to see how the
staff and the children react.

I think Mrs Kay can't believe what she's witnessing and so to get
"proof" she takes photos.

As they get back in to Liverpool, I think everyone missed it really
but as soon as they say the images of Liverpoolthey wish they hadn't
come home. I think this is what Carol was talking about, when she was
on the cliff top.

Briggs isn't seen as he would usually dress, I think this is because
he wanted to break free from his usual boring and strict self, he
wanted to have a good time. When he wakes up and notices that he is
back home, he realises that he has a reputation to live up to, so he
smartens himself up. He tries to hide the fact that he enjoyed himself
that day.

But it comes back to haunt him, Mrs Kay reminds him

"I've got some gems of you here"

She tells him that she is going to put them up in the staff room. This
terrifies Briggs. He notices that he would be seen as one of the other
teachers, just because he took a break form his usual self.

He offers to develop the photos. I think he had already planned to
destroy the pictures. Mrs Kay agrees to hand them over.

The last scene is of Briggs outside the school, exposing the film to
the light and scrunching it in his pocket; he gets in his car and
drives past Carol, not acknowledging her, reminding her that he is
back to his usual self.

Throughout the play Mrs Kay's character is consistent throughout the
play. Mrs Kay is an easy character to look at, where as Mr Briggs
shows different sides to him, mainly at the end. He is quite difficult
to understand and he takes a lot of different interpretations to fully
understand him.
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