Monday, 15 September 2014

Our Day Out: The Musical @ Oldham Coliseum, 09.09.14

Under the excellent direction of Kevin Shaw, Oldham Coliseum bring you a rip-roaring adventure with a class of kids from Fairbottom High as they venture into a place quite unlike what they are used to in Our Day Out. Containing a cast of nearly 40, the show is fun, funny and moving at the same time, revealing the antics of a motley crew of characters who are brought together by fate. We meet the fantastic teacher, the teacher we all wish we had, Mrs Kay (Claire Storey), who adores this class that she has taken under her wing. The class is maligned by other students and teachers at Fairbottom High, due to it being a special “Progress” class for sometimes bullied students with a range of issues labelled variously as “psychos, schizos, OCDs” or “dyslexic, fat, anorexic”.

The Progress kids are exuberant, excited (well, apart from the “boring duo”) and excitable. And Mrs Kay gets them. Mrs Kay has the psychology needed to work with these kids. But Mr Briggs (Russell Richardson) has gatecrashed this gig, and taken them on a detour. Instead of going to a theme park, as the kids expected, he takes them somewhere he thinks they will benefit educationally, much to the Progress students’ annoyance. Will Mrs Kay save the day? Will Mr Briggs succumb to her psychological strategies, like the students do, and like the bus driver did?

The cast as a collective are impressive, and when they have solo scenes or one to one interactions, they are equally memorable. The characters are larger than life: Old Les, the non-politically correct lollipop man (Kieran Cunningham) with his cataracts. The bus driver, Ronny (also played by Kieran Cunningham) is the boss of the bus! Some of the students show the audience what it means to be young and troubled: Amy (Emily Fitton) is enamoured by the seagulls, loves the escape from reality, and really does not want to go back home. There are touching moments in the hilarity and chaos that give us glimmers of heartache that these Progress students endure.

The show reminds us of the humanity needed when working with young people, schools are not simply sites of teaching and learning the academic curriculum. Teachers earn the privilege of knowing the troubles and tests faced by these students in their everyday lives, and Mrs Kay has full knowledge of this, whilst Mr Briggs is on a learning curve. Willy Russell wrote the play in 1977, yet it is still apt today. Willy Russell was a teacher, and this shines through in the dialogue and characterisation, for he surely met such wonderful characters in his teaching years.

Our Day Out has brilliantly entertaining song and dance numbers performed by talented young people, with extremely high levels of energy and enthusiasm. The band, Sam Fluskey on Bass and James Newton on Drums, perfectly accompany the mood of the play. Sometimes hilarious, other times the production is concerned with poignantly reminding us of the dreams, hopes and pains of young people. It is a must watch for students who study Willy Russell writings in school, as well as anybody – young or adult – who wants a jolly night out witnessing the Day Out.

Words: Sadia Habib

Image: Courtesy of Oldham Coliseum

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