The Ways that Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay are Presented in Our Day Out by Willie Russell

The Ways that Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay are Presented in Our Day Out by Willie Russell

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The Ways that Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay are Presented in Our Day Out by Willie Russell


Our Day out by Willie Russell is an energetic and humorous play, about
a school trip to Conwy castle. The 'progress class', a class for
illiterate children, are on a trip to Wales where the liberal Mrs Kay
and the strict Mr Briggs have completely different ideas about the day
should be organised.
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Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs have two distinct personalities that clash
frequently throughout the play and Willie Russell presents both in an
interesting and comical way in his drama.

Mrs Kay is a benevolent and fun teacher who treats the children as if
they were her own. 'She always reminds me of a mother hen rather than
a teacher'. Mr Briggs says this and it sums up exactly what Mrs Kay is
like and her attitude to the children.

Her aim on the school trip is for everyone to have fun with the only
rule being '...think of yourselves but also think of others'. She
genuinely cares for the children and wants them to have an enjoyable
day out to assuage the social injustice that they find themselves up
against.

Mr Briggs' ideology of the children is contrary to Mrs Kay's. Mr
Briggs is a strict, intolerant and old-fashioned teacher who is has
firm standards and is harsh towards the students. 'Stop! Slater,
walk…walk! You, boy…come here. Now stop. All of you…stop!' Mr Briggs
is shouting as the children get off the coach but Mrs Kay casually
walks past and pours out some coffee.

At the zoo, Mr Briggs lightens up a little and we get to see more of
the soft and loving side that he conceals in favour of the harsh and
angry one. He is enjoying himself when he explains about all of the
different animal types to the children, and in the café with Mrs Kay,
he even offers to do a small presentation at school with some slides.
'I didn't think the kids who came to you would be too interested in

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animals'. He is pleasantly surprised with the interest of the children
in a topic that he holds close to this heart. However, all the
reader's hopes of Mr Briggs turning 'nice' are dashed when the
children attempt to steal the animals and he returns with vengeance
back to the old Mr Briggs, and, with a 'face of thunder', shouts at
the children again.

Mrs Kay understands that a lot of the children come from a deprived
background and sympathises with their predicament. She shows this when
she chooses to go on the side of the Progress Class when they attempt
to steal some animals from the zoo. 'Well I'd suggest that if you want
the chaos to stop then you should stop seeing it as chaos...It's too
late for them. Most of them were rejects the day they were born…can't
we try and give them a good day out…' She realises that it was
probably the closest that they would ever get to an animal and many
were just over-excited at the prospect of having something that they
would never have.

Mr Briggs' encounter with Carol Chandler is a defining moment of the
play because when Carol is on the top of the cliff we can see that Mr
Briggs does not know what it is like to be Carol and children like her
in that situation. He is taken aback at the fact that Carol talks back
at him which he is not use to. Carol doesn't want to go back to
school, she dreams of living in a 'nice place' and has really enjoyed
the outing. Briggs thinks she is just being stubborn but what has
Carol got to go back to in Liverpool? Briggs begins to see that she is
a poor, innocent girl whom no one loves. After the incident with
Carol, Mr Briggs changes, he sees the world from her perspective. He
becomes more relaxed, insists on a visit to the fair and lets the
children treat him like they do Mrs Kay. At the fair he starts to have
fun with the children and most are astounded at his attitude change -
'I didn't know you was like that, sir. Y' know, all right for a laugh
an' that'. However, as the coach nears Liverpool, reality returns, and
Mr Briggs purposely destroys the photo film, which held evidence of
his changed relationship with the Progress Class.

It is plainly evident in the play, that Mr Briggs is the better
teacher academically than Mrs Kay. The headmaster asked Mr Briggs to
go along on the school trip 'keep things in some sort of order' and
the headmaster describes Mrs Kay's attitude to education as 'one long
game'. This epitomises Mrs Kay's attitude to teaching as something
that should be fun, entertaining and not too serious. Mrs Kay may be
an incompetent teacher, but the question that needs to be asked is:
Can the Progress Class be educated? Mrs Kay doesn't seem to think so
and is more interested in letting them have an enjoyable childhood
than in expanding their knowledge.

'Teach them? Teach them what? You'll never teach them because nobody
knows what to do with them…they haven't got anything to aim for…'

I think Willie Russell intends us to sympathise with Mr Briggs and
with the children in the Progress Class, especially Carol Chandler.

The children are from poor background and have no hope for the future.
Carol Chandler's school uniform 'doubles as a street outfit and her
Sunday best'. This shows just how poor the children are - their best
clothes are their school uniform. Carol, who dreams of being in a
'nice place', is probably the child worst affected because she has no
one to love and no one to love her. She comes from a rough
neighbourhood because she says - ' That's why we never have nothing
nice round our way - 'cos we'd just smash it up'. She took the guinea
pig and was affectionate towards it because it was something that was
her own and something that she could love. Also, the other children
seem to ostracise her and the only person she seems to have a proper
conversation with is Mrs Kay.

Mr Briggs is an intelligent man trying to educate puerile students.
All throughout the play he means well to the children and it is a real
stab-in-the-heart when Carol says ' I know you hate me. I've seen you
goin' home in your car, passin' us on the street. And the way y' look
at us. You hate all the kids!' When he tells off kids, they take it
but after they just ignore him and carry on as normal. He is also the
only teacher who doesn't realise (until after the Carol Chandler
incident) that the Progress Class are incapable of being educated.

Our Day Out by Willie Russell is a funny and light-hearted play but
with lots of hidden messages. Wille Russell presents the
characteristics of Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay very interestingly and with
good humour. We are left with a feeling of ambivalence at the end when
Mr Briggs destroys the camera film. Has he changed for good or was it
just a one off?
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