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THEATRE REVIEW: Our Day Out - The Musical

Mike Chapple catches Willy Russell's musical sharra, stopping at his worst nightmare: coaches and kids

Published on September 22nd 2009.


THEATRE REVIEW: Our Day Out - The Musical

THERE are two abominations in this world: coach trips and musicals featuring precocious kids.

The former will always be associated with the combined smell of sick, egg butties and midgets in front, cranking the seat back to crush the kneecaps, to create even more waggle-space for their little limbs.

In short this is an absolute stonking triumph, arguably not only the most
ambitious, but most satisfying of the Royal Court's laudable commitment to fostering home-grown talent

The latter conjures up an image of Junior Showtime-era Bonnie Langford lookalikes in Meet-The- Gang-Cos-the-Boys-Are-Here footlights mode, shrieking that atrocity “Tomorrow”, from Annie. The horror, the horror, as Colonel Kurtz would have said, before blasting the aforesaid midgets and Bonnies to death with an Uzi.

Willy Russell's musical adaptation of his own TV drama, Our Day Out, contains these elements - ie coach trips and singing children, but in this incarnation the experience proves one not to be forgotten - for all the right reasons.

In short this is an absolute stonking triumph, arguably not only the most ambitious but satisfying of the Royal Court's laudable commitment to fostering home-grown talent.

For those not in the know, Our Day Out, was originally a pure narrative tale penned by former teacher Russell, first screened in the BBC's Play for Today slot, and to almost universal acclaim, in 1978.

It centres around an eventful rites-of passage school trip to Wales involving Mrs Kay's Progress Class, a gang of deprived adolescent Liverpudlians who, it can be safely assumed, have never been further afield than the bottom of their road, never mind to Conway Castle.

It's been a popular perennial with drama groups ever since, but Our Willy always felt that there was unfinished business.

So, as a proven songwriter and composer, as well as playwright, there have been dabblings with this as a part-musical production in the past.

But this is the first time that narrative dialogue, has fully taken the back seat (bad pun intended) to allow the music and songs to flourish in a fast moving, two-hour production powered by Bob Eaton's direction.

Supported by the expertise of the theatre's musical director, Howard Gray, and an extremely tight six piece backing band squeezed into the stalls, this marks an almost faultless, full blooded dive by Russell - together with Eaton - back into the compositional sea, with songs which pulse with wit, poignancy and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarity.

Favourites among a few proved to be I'm In Love With Sir, opined by lovelorn scally girl Carlene, played convincingly by Abby Mavers (sample line sung in sing-song scouse: "I'm In love with Sir, But Sir doesn't care. Cos Sir's in love with her, over there, with the hair, bleedin' mare...") and the wistful Why Can't it Always Be This Way?, sung by Mia Molloy, that received deserved, thunderous applause.

Kelly Forshaw and Sinead Thompson also brought the house down as the joined-at-the-hip, misery-moo pupils whose continual catchphrase and accompanying song is "Borin' its bleedin' borin'."

Abby, Mia, Kelly and Sinead, were part of the excellent young cast chosen from an auditioning team that included, perhaps most importantly, choreographer Beverley Norris-Edwards. She was on the look -out to sift out raw talent from pre-programmed happy-clappy Bonnies who one can imagine, had their pushy, mouthy, mums glowering, arms folded, in the background.

The result is an adventurous, boisterous but well co-ordinated juvenile romp around an economical but inventive set which had the Court alternately purring with pleasure and snorting with laughter.

And lest we forget there's the adults who don't entirely have the show stolen away from them.

The vesatile Andrew Schofield fitted into the part of the curmudgeonly teacher Mr Briggs like an old beige suit from Shelter. Mickey Starke was the belicose (or should that be belly-cose) coach driver and Holly Quin-Ankrah was most impressive as the sexy Miss putting cock of the school Reilly (an excellent show by Chris Mason) in his place when she mockingly seduces him at the seaside during the ditty Beach Boy (sample line: A flustered Reilly: "Ar, ay miss, be'ave!" Sexy Miss: "That's what I'm doing. Mis-behavin'.")

But it was the kids and the songs which were the stars, a factor which the adults would surely not begrudge them.

If Billy Elliott can win a host of awards there's no reason why this gem of a musical can't follow suit when its debut run in Liverpool ends in mid-October.

Catch the bus while you can. Our Day Out makes for a Great Night Out.

9/10: “Borin', bleedin' borin'” it most certainly ain't.

Our Day Our, Royal Court, Roe St, Liverpool, L1 1HL. 0870 787 1866. Until October 17.

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C JonesSeptember 21st 2009.

YES, but which press night did you go to??

younger-than-twiggy.anywaySeptember 21st 2009.

I was there on press night. This is absolutely bloody fantastic - and I am not usually fulsome. The energy and talent and quite simply, up-to-date feel good factor - go and see it, and while you are at it, have some scouse stew. Our Willy has proofed that whatever he has to say, can be said in any decade. Miss Kay is perfection and serves as a springboard for the inspiring young talent - most of whom I am told are not professionals. Should not end on the 17th. Bring it back again very soon.

Rusty SpikeSeptember 21st 2009.

Well, as reviews go I can only assume that Mr Chapple must be in the pay of Bob Eaton and Willy Russell. ONLY JOKING! A terrific review of the show - a cracking good read. It makes me want to jump in a cab and hotfoot it to the Royal Court immediately. For those old codgers who can recall Bob Eaton's stimulating time at the Everyman Theatre, this is clearly another triumph.

How oddSeptember 21st 2009.

Why, were there two?

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