Saturday, 16 May 2015

A Day Out (1972)

A Day Out is a beautifully bittersweet play which was Alan Bennett's debut play for television in 1972. Set on a summer Sunday in 1911, it depicts the members of a Halifax cycling club, following them from the town to the ruins of Fountains Abbey. It's an idyllic vision of an England long past but hanging over it, like a black storm cloud just out of sight on the horizon, is the impending war which broke out three years later in 1914. It's addressed in a ruefully ironic manner when the keen socialist Boothroyd (Brian Glover) explains his theory that there will never be another war, and that people will look back on this generation as the dawn of a new age. Of course, we know this was not to be and The Great War cut its swathe through that generation and tragically through many of the club's members as well, as the 1919 coda suggests.

But for now, the day out provides a temporary freedom from the dull and stifling routine and grind of the mill, offering them at the very least a chance to air thoughts and feeling to sympathetic ears and likeminded souls, regardless of class and position in society, and a chance to breathe the fresh, clean country air. 

To capture the period feel, the director Stephen Frears shot A Day Out in black and white, and the hazy, cinematography equally captures the lyrical quality of Bennett's script as well as the artistic evocation of Edwardian life.

A great cast of professionals and locals give A Day Out an authentic north country flavour and many of the 'new faces' here such as Paul Shane,  Brian Glover, Bernard Wrigley and Dave Hill would become firm favourites for this kind of genre in the years to come. Oh and I defy you not to think of Arthur Conan Doyle when David Waller's bewhiskered Mr Shuttleworth appears on screen, ever the recipient of James Cossins' toadying Mr Shorter - both make for a fine middle class double act.

A Day Out is available on the DVD Alan Bennett At The BBC and in instalments to view for free on YouTube. 

To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic plays please sign the petition I started here

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