Our Day Out

Date 1st February 2024
Society NK Theatre Arts
Venue Castle Hill School
Type of Production Play
Director Dominic Stannage
Written By Willy Russell

Report

Author: Steph Niland

Willy Russell is known for his string of popular award-winning plays and musicals based in and around Liverpool. He often constructed plays and characters from situations, drawn from real life experiences. Our Day Out was written about Russell’s own experience as a teacher accompanying another teacher, of a similar class to the one depicted in Our Day Out, on a trip to Conwy Castle.

Nk Theatre Arts’ version of this play had all the correct ingredients to put across the humour, warmth, and sense of humanity. The cast were superbly invested. They had embraced their new surroundings, having had to move the play to a school hall instead of their usual space at Romiley Forum, beautifully. Indeed, it worked so well in the school environment, one could be fooled into thinking it was its intended home all along. The use of the floor, the audience on several sides, amongst the action in the bus, the stage showed change of place; the zoo and beach and cliff edge etc – all worked excellently.

Jennie Davies as Mrs Kay was an absolute treat to watch in action. Completely immersed in the character, so believable and natural in the role. You felt the genuine love and care she had for the children and there was a proper whiff of “someone who’s worked in education for a long time” about her. Jennie was so solid in this performance, the glue for the entire show and the interaction between her and the other characters, particularly the students, was testimony to how well she portrayed this loved and important teacher. Well done!

Briggs, the strict deputy head teacher played suitably superciliously by Gareth Cole, was the archetypical unbending and unreasonable teacher that most people can relate to, as they’ll have across this type at some point in their educational journey. Briggs has to be played with authority and complete belief in his opinion, he is the reactor for all the other characters in the play and Gareth played him exactly right, the contrast when Briggs softens towards the end came across as genuine too. Congratulations.

A small but significant role was Ronnie, the bus driver played so utterly congenially by Terry Halliday. This is an actor who grasps this kind of comedy perfectly and his moments were wonderfully played.

Although Briggs and Mrs Kay could arguably be taken as the protagonists of the play, indeed they have the most to do, the story really belongs to the kids. We get the measure of Briggs and Mrs Kay from the onset of the play, but the students reveal themselves as the piece moves on. Every one of this student ensemble did a brilliant job of making the character their own. Little nuances were explored, and choices were made to ensure they were all well rounded and considered but different to each other. They worked incredibly well as a group. It was a joy to witness. The Liverpudlian dialect and slang felt at home in their voices, and they’d settled into a familiar ethos around each other where there was a natural hierarchy but also a supportive atmosphere because they had been thrown together in this progress class. This all added to the robustness of the depiction.

Although strong as a group, a couple of names could be mentioned separately, due to being given the chance to showcase their talents within the script.

Carol played by Skye Reilly was completely endearing, Russell wrote her as the mouthpiece which projected the message he always contained in his plays - the character who craves freedom or escape from a deprived background, but the role is peppered with realism and humour throughout. Skye shone in this role. She had depth of character that belied her years. You felt sorry for her predicament and, at the same time, a sort of parental sympathy about the fact that she has had grow up too fast. Her emotional scene on the cliff was a highlight.

Charlie Goodwin gave us the cocky and mouthy Riley. Perfectly played, with all the bravado and physical arrogance at the start, playing up to Mrs Kay and trying to dominate the bus, but then suitably admonished and embarrassed towards the end.

Linda played so confidently by Olivia Barton, was brassy and such an archetypical “it” girl, played brilliantly for era and area but also with such heart. A competent portrayal. Maddie Bates as her side kick mate, Jackie, also put in a great performance.

Some smaller roles worth mentioning are Imogen Sadler who impressed with her “know it all” delivery, Emily Fahy in her sympathising with the bear scene in the Zoo, Daniel Johnson’s grasp of comedy timing and facial expression was notable, particularly in the sweets section. The girls who delivered the ‘It’s boring’ poetry sections were hilarious and appropriately sardonic; these sections were self- assured but nicely underplayed. There was a talented guitar player, which added a lovely facet to the bus trip scenes and a real live snake- Rico!

Director Dominic Stannage and Castle Hill school and the whole troop of NK actors, put on a fabulously entertaining and immersive experience. Just right for this piece. Congratulations.