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Funny, endearing and insightful are just a few words to describe LUDS’s recent production of Our Day Out. Willy Russell’s hilarious, high-energy musical was originally written for a 1976 TV production but was first performed in Liverpool in 1983, and has taken up permanent residence here ever since. Our Day Out didn’t disappoint audiences in its run at the Liverpool Guild of Students. Kahrie Carter directed an outstanding cast, who had their work cut out for them, taking on the roles of a group of disadvantaged kids, their teachers, and various people they encounter on a school trip to Conwy.
Nemesis teachers attempting to raise low expectations were nicely drawn out from the very beginning; authoritarian Mr Briggs (Omar Hussein) and kind Mrs Kay (Aidan Bungey) were particularly heart-wrenching with their winning portrayal of gloomy realism as they take the children away from the drudgery of their everyday lives, with assistance from fellow helpers Susan (Raian Moore) and Colin (Jake Gill) along the way. (For students considering Teach First, be warned; watching Our Day Out may change your mind.) The gifted individuals who played the ‘Progress Class’ were utterly transfixing with their energy, from Digga (Phil Mason), Reilly (Benedict Gibson) and Andrews (Blake Mckenzie) smoking at the back of the bus- ‘Give us a ciggy’ will always remain one of the funniest lines- to depressed Carol’s (Emily Atherton) gripping desire to jump off the cliff. Other cast members took on multi-rolling, and Zara Khaoury was particularly impressive in her sharp changes from headmistress, to Mrs Roberts and then to a zookeeper, keeping audience members on their toes.
Stage managers, Harry Norton and Izzy Duffy, effortlessly encapsulated the school classroom, bus interior, sweet shop, zoo, castle, beach and funfair onto the stage through swift set changes and multi-functioning props, meaning audience members were constantly engaged with the trip and the play’s rapid pace. The Stanley theatre’s space was further utilized using proxemics; the stage’s drop was cleverly used for the cliff, whilst the floor stage’s width made it apt for both a road for the lollipop man (Emily Greener), and the beach. Spotlights were also frequently used, humanising the characters of Our Day Out, and building our empathy with them.
Hysterical from start to finish, there was some real warmth and grit in this production (other than the sandy stuff on the beach) and with its killer old-school soundtrack, its light-heartedness and vibrancy were exactly what students needed in the stressful build-up to exams.