The New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under Lyme resounded to the sound of brass band music last night at the press night of “ Brassed Off” by Paul Allen, adapted from the screenplay by Mark Herman.
Many people will know the film version made in 1996 and starring a young Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald and the late Pete Postlethwaite. The stage version borrows heavily from the film with an adaption by Mark Herman but is none the worse for that.
For those that don’t know the film, Brassed Off tells the story of Grimley Colliery Band, a brass band with a history but under pressure due to the imminent closure of the pit. Danny, the band conductor and leader (Martin Barrass) knows the band is good enough to win the national championships but he has to keep the band members in order so that they turn up for practice and play at their best, despite the pressures in the personal lives.
Danny’s son, Phil, William Fox) is a fine trombonist but his battered trombone is not so fine and he has no money to buy a new instrument. Jim and Harry (Andy Cresswell and Howard Chadwickl) can’t really afford the band subs but daren’t tell Danny that they want to leave. Meanwhile Andy (Nicholas Shaw) is distracted by both women and snooker.
Add to the mix the new arrival in Grimly Gloria Mullins (Clara Darcy) who has a past with Andy but can also play the trumpet, and Danny really has his work cut out.
The whole play is interspersed by brass band music from the Grimley Colliery Band, played beautifully by the TCTC Group Band from Crewe, and who were greatly appreciated by the press night audience.
There is , of course, a great deal of humour in the play but we also see the struggles that the miners and their families go through, torn between taking the redundancy money on offer or keeping their jobs. Throughout the evening we are also reminded of the struggles that the miners went through during the strike of 1984 and how, it may all have been for nothing.
One point that struck me throughout the evening was not only how good the overall acting was but also the fact that all of the main characters could actually play their instruments. In fact Clara Darcy and Susie Emmett (Phil’s wife, Sandra) both perform brilliant solos during the course of the evening.
A final word too for the director, Conrad Nelson, an old friend to the New Vic, and also the set designer, Lis Evans. This is not an easy play to adapt for a theatre in the round, with a large cast and frequent scene changes, but they have done a fantastic job in this production.
Whether you love brass band music or are indifferent to it, this is a play about people and community spirit in the face of adversity.
“Brassed Off” runs at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle- under-Lyme until Saturday June 22nd Telephone the box office for tickets on 01782 717962 or email firstname.lastname@example.org