Willy Russell's Our Day Out Essay

3806 words - 15 pages

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 accent, we can't help but speak in a
Liverpudlian accent when reading the play, and this again adds to the
authenticity. The children also use slang words. For example, they
refer to the Corporation as 'The Corpy', bonfire night as 'bommy
night', and cigarettes as 'ciggies'. In any society, the colloquial
dialect is an essential part of the culture, and the use of it in 'Our
Day Out' forcefully conveys to the audience the essence of the
background of these children.

Symbolism plays a significant part in 'Our Day Out', because it gives
Russell the opportunity to display how the children feel about their
hopeless situations, without having to state it in the text or put it
in the dialogue. This is important because the children don't
necessarily know how they feel, or if they do they can't express it,
so to put it in the dialogue would be inconsistent with their
characters. If Russell had put it in the stage directions it would not
be experienced to its full impact when people see the play on
television or on the stage. Russell also probably didn't want to be so
explicit; some things, such as the knowledge of the hopelessness of
the children's situations and the destitution they are facing, are
more...

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