Writer: Martin Herman
Adapter: Paul Allen
Director: Conrad Nelson
The play takes its lead from the real story of Grimethorpe. A story about community spirit and triumph in the face of adversity, mainly set in the early nineties, 10 years on from the infamous miner’s strike.
Gloria Mullins (Maddie Hansen) returns to her home town Grimley to assess the profitability of the pit, initially unknown by the town. Her childhood romance with Andy Barrow (Daniel Watson) is reignited and, as she just happens to play the flugelhorn, she ends up playing in the colliery band.
Paul Allen tells the story mainly through a young boy Shane (Jacob Robinson); his grandad Danny (Martin Barrass), coughing with coal dusted lungs, defiantly transforms their colliery band into British Champions at the Royal Albert Hall. Shane’s dad, Phil (Micky McGregor) struggles to keep his wife Sandra (Sarah Boulter), his four children and his home. Two other couples, Harry (Howard Chadwick) and wife Rita (Jacqueline Phillips), Jim (Paul Joseph) and wife Vera (Zoe Lambert), complete the strong cast.
Adapted from the 1996 British comedy film, Brassed Off, a north east saying for feeling angry, annoyed and despondent, also cleverly refers to the band. A gantry set (Dawn Allsopp) with the symbolic pit head wheel dominates the stage, and minimal lighting (Darren Lowe) is very effective, such as a green square on the floor for a snooker table. The opening scene of twenty lit pitman’s helmets shining out from a dark set is very effective. Suitable costumes (Dawn Allsopp) complete the period feeling, but whether leggings were around then is questionable. A great job for Lee Morris’s first major job as musical director for a stage production. The director (Conrad Nelson) uses the stage well, with the cast and crew changing scenes almost seamlessly, the crew even adding to the action playing extra characters.
The whole cast give convincing performances and, while Chadwick has many comic lines, his delivery is impeccable. Nine year old Robinson’s performance is very natural and assured – a shame his young voice often lacks clarity, losing some text. The band performances are shared between the excellent champions RMT Fishburn Brass Band and Easington Colliery Band. A great link with Easington – the band that was set up in 1915 by miners played in the Championship Section National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall as well, in 1951; after a decline in fortunes they are playing there this October.
Relocated from Yorkshire to Durham, it would be good to see a photograph of an old colliery band among the programme’s page of miner’s photographs; the play is called Brassed Off.
Drama, comedy, anger, love interest, sadness, pathos, friendship and terrific live music, this production has it all. While the show is ‘Brassed Off’, the packed theatre was not, giving a well-deserved standing ovation.
Runs until Saturday 24th September 2022.