“Our Day Out” was written to be filmed with reference to three icy moments. Write about how the film offers the audience visual images which help illuminate the ideas of the play.
The play “Our Day Out” was written on the personal experiences of writer Willy Russell, in 1977, when he was a school teacher.
It was a different style to other plays, focusing on children from working class families. The play tells the story of a day out for the “progress class”, from a Liverpool comprehensive school. Their trip is to Conway castle, in whales, but they also make several unscheduled stops at other places, including a cafï¿½, a zoo, and even a fun fair.
But Russell is not meaning this trip to be a normal outing, it’s meant to be a generalization and representation of all school trips, with classic stereotypical characters, such as teacher Mr Briggs. The play is layered with different meanings and perspectives, and on the deepest level, highlights some very serious issues, cleverly portrayed in a sometimes humorous way. For example, one stop at a cafï¿½, the children steal sweets and chocolate from the owners. This may sound shocking, but it’s played down so it doesn’t seem so serious. Russell does this by spinning it on the shop keepers, “Considering the profit they make of the kids I don’t think they’ve got much to complain about”.
In the play, there are incidents that hint at some serious political points, as I mentioned earlier. One such incident occurs in whilst the children are visiting a zoo. There is a bear in a concrete pit, which brings about a conversation between strict teacher Mr Briggs, and a group of children,
“It must know other ways of living sir, you know, free like?” Ronson is talking about how the bear must understand its situation, and therefore know that it is being kept against its will. Being held back. “It only kills people cos it’s trapped an’ people are always looking at it”. Russell has not intended this to be about bears. It represents the children’s position, trapped in the progress class, being held back by Mrs Kay, an affectionate woman to the children, but yet a bad teacher.
These children have no freedom; they are “trapped” in the progress class, the same way the bear is trapped in the concrete pit. Mrs Kay does care for the children, but she keeps them “busy” as opposed to teaching them. She is quite the opposite of Mr Briggs, a strict, but professional teacher, because he takes his job very seriously, keeping the children inline, “there’s not just our school to worry about.
There’s the others who come after us, and they are dependent upon the good will of the people that run these places”. Briggs believes the children have potential, but it just needs to be worked on. Mrs Kay does care for the children, but she acts more like a mother than an educator, but she has a justified reason for this, “Ten years ago you could teach them to stand in a line, you could teach them to obey… and expect nothing more than a factory job… there’s nothing more for them, they were born for factory fodder but the factories have closed down”
At Conway castle, Andrews makes a reference to the fort, and how people defend what is theirs. H e then develops this into saying that the children of the progress class only “wreak” things because they don’t develop any sense of ownership “miss, if all this belonged to us, not the corpys, we wouldn’t let anyone wreak it, we’d defend it.” This idea of the children’s neglect, and how they are missing out, links back to the idea of the children being bears in pits, they have no choice, and they are trapped or doomed rather.
One example of the children’s confinement comes from Carol on the cliff scene. Carol just wants to stay “here, where it’s nice”, rather than returning to the grey bleakness of Liverpool. Mr Briggs calls her to come back, away from the cliff edge, but she goes on saying she wants to stay. This scene begins to trigger a new Mr Briggs, for the first times you see him show some compassion towards the children. “look… carol… you’re talking as if your life is already over… like its ending not beginning… what’s to stop you from working hard at school and getting a job and moving here when you’re old enough?”. Yet carol, like the bear in the pit, understands that that could never happen, “don’t be friggin’ stupid”, which is particularly effective in the film because of the liverpudlian accent, which makes it easier to empathise with her.
Mr Briggs is eventually able to talk carol out of staying, “id of been alright if u were my old fella”, which again links back to the children being like the bears, and understanding.
After then, Mr Briggs is a changed man, he is more understanding towards the children, which in turn helps him to have a good time for the rest of the trip, which is backed in the film, by images of him smiling, “you don’t half look funny you know…. sir you should smile more often” .
But when they return to Liverpool, and get off the coach, reality seams to sink in, and things go back to normal, especially for Mr Briggs, who even destroys the evidence that he has ever had fun on the day, by exposing the camera film to light, and he’s back to being the teacher, driving past the children on the street. This leaves us thinking, what has the day actually achieved? Giving the children a moment to escape from the confinement of the “progress class”. The fact is nothing has changed, and nothing will change for these children.