Willy Russell deals with a lot of serious issues in an entertaining way, issues such as social class, adoption, superstition, separated children, single parents and murder. The harsh themes reflect serious issues in reality. Nature vs. Nurture was also another issue that Willy Russell’s depicted. As we saw in the play Mickey was brought up in a lower-class family, whereas Edward was brought up in a higher-class family. As it turned out Edward was eventually far better of than Mickey when they had grown up.
This is a good indication to show that Willy Russell thinks that people who are brought up in a higher-class family have a better life than in a lower-class family. The play also reflects some of Willey Russell’s life because he was brought up in an area of Liverpool, which was lower class, and there were probably rough times that he had to go through because of the recession. The recession (somewhere between late 1970’s and 1980’s) also triggered some issues such as poverty and different classes, which probably was why Willy Russell portrayed these issues in the play.
These social and historical aspects of the play have influenced the plot; the setting was also significant because it was an area where there were lower-class people, but as it turned out Edwards’s family were higher class – a reflection of the recession. But Willy Russell does manage to portray these issues in a entertain way to engage the audience. The characters and their language also reflect how life really was at that time. The two main characters Mickey and Edward, who were separated at birth, are presented in a totally different way.
When they meet Mickey is presented typically like a lower-class person, we can immediately tell that through his language as he uses a lot of slang and swear words. Willy Russell wanted us the audience to react alarmingly to Mickey, someone like a troublemaker, as shown by the quotes, ‘But I’m not playin’ now ‘cos I’m pissed off’, and ‘Yeh, I know loads of words like that. Y’know, like the ‘F’ word’. He wanted us to see him like someone who was brought up in a lower class family, who had a hard time. However Edward was presented as a higher-class person, as he used a posh dialect like ‘Yes, of course.
Take as many as you want’ and ‘You know the most smashing things. Will you be my best friend? ‘ He was also shown like someone who was well behaved as shown by the quote ‘Pardon? ‘ which was polite. But it was quite entertaining as Mickey hadn’t heard of things like a dictionary, and Edward hadn’t heard of any swearwords – a serious issue like class portrayed in an entertaining way. Edward says ‘Fantastic. When I get home I’ll look up that word in the dictionary’ and Mickey said ‘Of course I know what a dictionary is… It’s a, it’s a thingy innit? ‘ This sort of humour engages the audience.
The way they talked built our perceptions of the characters, we would have a general idea of the way the characters were going to act and what they could get involved in, and this engages the audience. Willy Russell wanted the audience to react in opposite ways for both characters – he wanted us to see that the two characters were a contrast. However there were some similarities as they were bought up in the same area and had the same natural mother. As Mickey and Edward starting mixing, the audience would become anxious, as two characters with different backgrounds, who knew different things were mixing; hence engaging the audience.
An example was from the quotes previously, which showed that Mickey knew a lot of swearwords, and Edward didn’t, the audience would consequently think about what would happen to Edward. Mickey and Edward are quite entertaining characters, Willy Russell has used this to envelope it with the social class to portray it in an entertaining way. Characters like Mrs Lyons (who was higher-class) was spoken to more formally and politely by the policeman, whereas Mrs Johnstone (who was lower-class) was spoken to more informally and in an intimidating way.
The policeman said to Mrs Lyons ‘Excuse me, as I say it was more of a prank really, Mrs Lyons. ‘ The policeman is more respectful when speaking to her, addressing her by her name. However when speaking to Mrs Johnstone he says, ‘And he was about to commit a serious crime love, a serious crime. Now do you understand that? You don’t want to end up in court again, do you? Eh? ‘ The policeman uses a lot of question marks and commas. The frequent questioning shows that the policeman is patronising; he feels he has to ask constant questions to ensure that Mrs Johnstone understands him. He also only uses basic words.
This serious issue of class however was made entertaining because they lived so near to each other, so the natural surroundings weren’t different, it goes back to nature vs. nurture, and how you were brought up. But she has a tragic side to her as well, she says ‘I wish I was like Marilyn Monroe’, this shows us that she wants to be like Marilyn Monroe, but she was a tragic character herself, which was ironic. She was thinking only about the money and class, not about the stress and trouble that Marilyn Monroe got into. But as Mrs Johnstone regularly sang in the play it made those issues seem entertaining.
But the main subliminal message that Willy Russell was trying to portray from the characters and their language was that if you’re brought up in a higher-class family you are treated better than a lower-class person – you are treated differently. When the twins meet, it is entertaining because of the irony of superstition, the language devices like similes and personification that is used also makes the serious issues seem entertaining, like ‘He could swear like a solider’ this meant that Mickey was always swearing which was humorous; it made it entertaining for the audience.
Another quote, ‘I wish that I could be like Mickey, Kick a ball and climb a tree like Mickey, Run around with dirty knees like Mickey. ‘ This showed that Willy Russell thinks that higher-class people don’t swear, but it was made entertaining as Edward said he wanted to be like Mickey. I mean you couldn’t say that Mickey was a role model could you? This also shows the influence that a lower class like Mickey, had on a higher class like Edward. The narrator plays and important part of the dramatic aspect of the play. He is not in the plot, but he enhances the play.