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Review: Our Day Out, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

PUBLISHED: 14:19 04 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:19 04 September 2017

James Hirst as Mr Briggs, the authoritarian assistant head teacher, with the young company taking part in the Willy Russell musical Our Day Out at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Photo: Theatre Royal

James Hirst as Mr Briggs, the authoritarian assistant head teacher, with the young company taking part in the Willy Russell musical Our Day Out at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Photo: Theatre Royal

Archant

This funny and emotive musical about a class of disadvantaged teens on a school trip was originally written by Willy Russell in the 70s but remains just as true and poignant today.

The young company taking part in the Willy Russell musical Our Day Out at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Photo: Theatre Royal The young company taking part in the Willy Russell musical Our Day Out at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Photo: Theatre Royal

Featuring the abiding stereotypes from everyone’s school days - the scary headmaster, the cool teacher, bully boys, popular girls and, of course, the young teacher you had a crush on - Our Day Out sees them all come together to enjoy a coach trip to Wales which takes them from a zoo to a castle to an eventful conclusion at the beach.

Along the way, the sweet-but-surprisingly-feisty Miss Appleby (Georgia Richardson) teaches a young admirer a tough lesson and there is a hilarious dream sequence, somewhat reminiscent of Grease, where young Carly (Robyn Painter) is serenaded by the handsome Mr McDevit (the handsome George Brockbanks).

James Hirst is suitably authoritarian (read ‘terrifying’) as head Mr Briggs while Beth Tuckey is perfectly lovely as everyone’s favourite teacher, Mrs Kay. Special mention should also be made of Craig Stevenson who provided a great deal of heart in three supporting roles.

But the stars of the show were undoubtedly the 17 talented young performers portraying the street-wise ‘Progress’ class, who were so full of energy and enthusiasm that I occasionally felt they needed a larger stage to allow the performance to breathe. The sheer volume in the group numbers, coupled with their remarkably good Liverpool accents, occasionally made it tricky to hear the lyrics. But, as any high school teacher will tell you, that’s a class of 17 teens for you! Meanwhile, they perfectly captured the spirit, bluster and awkwardness of that age and clearly had a great time doing it, which meant we had a great time watching them.

However, woven together with the fun, flirting and frolics is a subtle message about poverty, deprivation and the challenges faced by children growing up in that environment. A great understated performance by Abigail Laker as the troubled and vulnerable Amy Chandler provided a truly touching conclusion to both squeeze the heart and stay in the mind.

Gold stars all round.

Martine Silkstone

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