Writer: Mark Herman
Adaptor: Paul Allen
Director: Kevin Shaw
Reviewer: Iain Sykes
The appearance of Brassed Off on the schedules of Oldham Coliseum is a regular occurrence. Three productions of the play, adapted by Paul Allen from Mark Herman’s screenplay for the 1996 film of the same name, have graced the boards here in the last eleven years, and the popularity of the play with Oldham audiences shows no sign of waning.
All of which is very understandable as even though the play is set across the Pennines at Yorkshire’s fictional Grimley Colliery, the issues which it addresses resonate with people from the whole north of England. And Oldham has the added bonus of being a rich mine of top brass band talent. It’s from this seam of brass music that tonight’s live band, The Delph Band, are drawn (other local bands take a week’s turn each for the rest of the run). The band is here to provide more that background music to the drama as the music is part of the whole draw of Brassed Off, the generosity of the writing allowing time for the play to be part concert to showcase their great talent.
With Foxton’s set creating the pit village of Grimley, colliery winding gear dominating a series of identical houses, the drama unfolds of a coal mining community voting to take their pay-off money or attempt to keep their pit open when Gloria, a new arrival makes life even more complicated. Director Kevin Shaw keeps the pace steady throughout the play, a pace which suits the unfolding story of family dramas in a superbly cast play. Danny (Ged McKenna) as the leader of Grimley Colliery Band, with a slow gait and a Yorkshire accent thick with coal dust, trying to keep the band motivated in the face of the village’s and their own personal issues. Like his son Phil and wife Sandra, a couple trying to keep their family together despite serious money issues (Paul Barnhill and Natalie Grady with deeply affecting careworn performances).
Strong and talented performances abound all through the cast especially in the multi-talented musicianship of some of the actors who prove themselves as adept as playing their instruments as bringing the characters to life. Rachael Garnett as Gloria in particular, who apparently does play the flugelhorn herself, produces a great version of the solo in Concierto de Aranjuez. The love story between Garnett’s Gloria and George Brockbanks’ carefree miner, Andy is one of the central threads of Brassed Off and the tension and tenderness of their affair is captured brilliantly by the two actors. The comedy aspect of the writing is also brilliantly cast with Howard Chadwick and John Elkington’s timing spot on in delivering Harry and Jim’s one-liners and in their very funny scene with their respective wives played by Isabel Ford and Una McNulty.
Brassed Off is a superbly written, humorous, emotive and moving play capturing a time in Britain’s social history when community really mattered to people. A play that still resonates with people, twenty years after it is set. This Oldham Coliseum production is a great production and with top brass band music to boot, a grand night at the theatre.
Runs until 1 October 2016 | Image: Contributed