REVIEW: Longridge's Our Day Out was a great night out
Audiences at The Maltings were treated to two stunning nights out as Longridge Towers School senior production of Willy Russell's Our Day Out played to appreciative audiences.
The play tells the story of how teacher Mrs Kay takes her underprivileged Progress Class students on a trip to Conway Castle, as respite from the drudgery of their everyday lives. However, authoritarian Mr Briggs has other ideas and is intent on maintaining discipline and an educational focus.
Alongside exploring serious themes of social justice and the politics of 1980s Britain, the script is also filled with humour and crowd-pleasing musical numbers.
A strength of the script is its ensemble format, with most scenes featuring the whole cast, and this was played to great effect. Set design that was beautiful in its simplicity resulted in quick, slick changes from scene to scene, ensuring a captivating sense of pace.
As the staging changed effortlessly from school classroom, to bus interior, to castle, sand dunes and finally a funfair, the audience was carried along with the transformative nature of the trip for the children involved.
Katie Parmenter was well cast as the liberal-leaning Mrs Kay, absolutely on the side of her disadvantaged wards, creating a convincingly mother-hen persona.
Her nemesis, Mr Briggs, was played to perfection in a standout performance by Archie Brewis, whose timing and sense of condescending hectoring had the children gleefully flicking v-signs behind his back as he attempted to control their behaviour.
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Katie Blackman and Bob Jeffrey were convincing as young teachers Susan and Colin, striking a fine balance between befriending and teaching the children, nowhere more so than in Katie’s solo number, I Know You Like Her, after mockingly putting his flirtatious schoolboy advances to the test.
William Allis entertained from start to finish as the jobsworth bus driver, beginning with his hilarious Boss of the Bus. Aidan Cunningham and Elizabeth Allis impressed as bad boys Reilly and Digga, as did Corinna Templeton and Calla Young as naughty girls Linda and Jackie, with Corinna’s I’m in Love with Sir a moving rendition of her desperate teen crush.
Thomas Vassie, Alexander McCormick, Carmen de Francisco, Charlotte Craze, Hannah Forster, Harriet Onley and Thomas Burns were all convincing as the rest of the Progress Class crew, ably assisted by the rest of the ensemble.
Freya Simpson’s portrayal of cheeky Milton showed a mastery of comic timing, and Oliver Armstrong’s role as the thwarted sweet shop owner was also very amusing. Erin Davies deserves special mention for stepping into the role of zookeeper so skilfully at short notice due to cast illness. Jemima Cowan was compelling too as the beleaguered head teacher. Bored girls Ava Nottingham and Nimah Bankier nearly stole the show with their refrain of It’s Bleeding Boring, but that accolade must go to Isla Simpson, outstanding in the tender role of Carol, trapped heading for a future she cannot escape but yearning to hold on to her dream of living peacefully by the sea.
By turns moving and hilariously funny, the show was an inpressive debut for talented Director Kelly Phillips, ably supported by Musical Director Mike Hardy and his superb band. Once again, Longridge impressed, and raised the bar for next year’s theatrical night out.