It’s unanimous that it’s the young cast who really make Our Day Out work, and apart from one substitution (Keiran Cunningham for Michael Starke), it is the exact same cast as the first outing in 2009. Their ensemble singing and dancing is perfect throughout, and in particular Mia Malloy as Amy Chandler gives a wonderful, and rather memorable, performance as the girl who doesn’t want to go home from the escape of a school trip far away.
The play lovingly recreates every element of the school day out, from the childish squabbling to the coach trip and the pupils finding fun where they sometimes least expect it. Pauline Daniels makes an ideal Mrs Kay – warm-hearted yet unconventional, thoughtful to the real lives of the children in her charge. Her nemesis is Mark Moraghan as uptight disciplinarian Briggs, who in turns chews the scenery with some proper hamming, and provides some genuinely moving, tender moments as the show climaxes.
The songs are your standard musical theatre fayre, albeit peppered with the odd unsavoury lyric about windowlickers and mongs. There’s a bit of cliché – real life isn’t like Hollywood/ they can’t take this away from me etc etc – but in the end it all comes together for an enjoyable show.
The class is beautifully realised: the group of scally lads, the sensitive souls, the girls desperate to grow up trying to woo Sir (Stephen Fletcher, who really isn’t given much to do). The inventive set – reminiscent of an urban-style take on 80s kids show Let’s Pretend – allowed the players to do a lot with little, and it’s impossible not to enjoy the stretch of the imagination required to believe what was going on.
We were late to the performance and watched the first half at the back of the circle. So far away and with a bit of an obscured view, it seemed hard to warm to the action on stage. For the second act, we took the places we were supposed to in the stalls, and were immediately sucked in to the very genuine charm of the cast. Was it simply a matter of proximity to the action, or did this show need to warm up a little bit to find its stride?
Ultimately, the show hit the spot in the way only a seasoned and expert dramatist like Willy Russell could ensure, making the audience laugh out loud, sniffle a bit, but most importantly really, truly care about what was happening on stage. The final scene featuring Briggs had a number of audience members shouting out loud in real dismay. In fact, it was one of those shows where I think you don’t even realise how well-constructed it is – and how much you’ve invested in it – until it is wrapping up, which makes the conclusion all the more tender. It is a show that really brings out the best of the Royal Court, where you can catch it until October 9.
Pic by Dave Evans