Our Day Out

Date 26th May 2017
Society Urmston Musical Theatre
Venue Abbotsford Prep School
Type of Production Musical
Director Eleanor Cardoza & Rachel Mellor
Musical Director James Goodwin
Choreographer James Goodwin

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

A modern take on the original Seventies TV play which tells of a school coach trip by illiterate Scouse youngsters to Conwy Castle, the seaside and the zoo. The idea seems, as some of the pupils repeatedly chirp, "boring!" but there is real warmth and grit to the text.

‘Our Day Out’ has always been a school and youth theatre staple but now the 1976 play has been revamped, with much more wit, the most obvious and forefront turn in its adaptation is the transformation of it into a musical. The adaptation has been made by its original writer (Willy Russell), tinkering with his earlier script for it to appeal to schools post Millennium adding songs and music (co-written with Bob Eaton).

The songs play wonderfully on the innately funny sound of the Liverpool accent while enhancing the pathos of this piece.

The adult roles of the piece are in the form of Melissa Gun’s kind Mrs Kay who displays a virtuous bond with the ‘kids’ who battles with Drew Frangleton's grouchy, oppressive – though very softly spoken – headmaster Mr Briggs. Both are backed up by a joyous act of multiple skill from the seen-it-all-before bus driver, irritable but caring Lollypop man and nerve-wracked zookeeper all played with gusto by Niall Sheridan.

Olivia Kirrane excels as the quiet loner, Amy (Carol in the original version) and Jessica Corps is a hoot as the flirtatious Carlene whose “I’m In Love With Sir” was the definite show stealer.

The unruly class come alive when directed to ‘go about their business’ in an improvisation fashion but lose their crucial characteristics whenever given specific instruction. Something I’m very rarely found to say is how I was pleased that the choreography was pretty much non-existent, purely because when the ensemble had been given detailed instruction as an ensemble, their characters were no longer as prominent whilst focus was on the task for that moment. Their interesting and fully understood characters were far more appealing to experience.

Mrs Kay's progress class of no-hopers may have OCD, ADHD - and their language is definitely not PC (which I believe had been censored for this production), but despite their inexperience the stellar young cast dominate the stage.

It's happy and dark with a stream of songs also penned by writer Willy Russell though, musically, nothing strikes as impressive as his ‘Blood Brothers’ however, the unique Liverpudlian temperament is present and as strong as ever within the script, highlighting the harsh reality of impoverished inner-city life remaining the sturdy undertone of the piece which hasn’t been diluted to the degree one may predict with the discovery of its transformation into what some may foresee as a frothy musical. Be rest assured that the northern appeal and command is as prominent as ever.   

Direction by Eleanor Cardoza & Rachel Mellor is safe and sensible, allowing the text to make all of the statements. An injection of energy into the performances with the instruction to “give it everything you've got” as the most vital note to their cast would have aided to boost some more oomph into the production but all-in-all this was a most agreeable and honest exertion.

The space at the Abbotsford Prep School had been tailored to reflect a traditional performance set up. The cast coped incredibly well with such a small performance area and the task to mimic a coach journey which transports us to several external locations (including a cliff face) was handled with a minimalistic vision which I appreciate was probably the only option available. The revolving screens were especially useful in aiding to visually guide us through the narrative.

This production was a joyous celebration of growing up, dreams of a happy future and escaping school and urban life.