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Review: Brassed Off

Brassed Off

The Grand Theatre.  Is there a lovelier theatre in the country? I’ve seen a few in my time and I’m always filled with delight when I get the chance to see anything at the ornate venue. On Tuesday evening I got to see the stage adaptation of the hugely popular film Brassed Off.

After a pre-show drink and the wonder of a choice of four, yes four different flavours of Kit-Kat (they do a mint one!) seats were taken and the early 90s indie-pop overture finished and the curtain rose.

As I say, the Grand is a gorgeous and ornate building; every wall, ceiling and fixture is moulded with cherubic and elegant detail, so as the stage was revealed it was with sharp contrast that a bleak northern street with a huge pit entrance and tower appeared. It’s a fantastically designed set; the two houses, alleyways and the looming industrial pit overshadowed the whole show as the threat of pit closure was ever present.

For those of you who have missed the film (I must admit to not having seen it), the story revolves around the imminent closure of the coal mine that the town of Grimley in Yorkshire depends on to survive. Despite the bleak future that pit closure will create, the miners find solace and escape in the colliery brass band. The band leader is not a well man, and his drive is to make the band his legacy despite the disparate problems of the miners and their families. Divisive votes for pay offs and redundancy are ever present. Throw into the mix an attractive new female member of the (predominately male) band who may not be quite what she seems and the tensions rise. Can the miners unite despite their differences and go on to win the nationals of the brass band competition?

Well I won’t spoil it by telling you, as it’s a great story.  Hopefully, you will get a chance to see it before it finishes its run on Saturday.  The show galloped along at a merry pace, and the music, played live with the ensemble cast and professional brass band, was a joy to hear. Mixed in among the brass was a nineties evocative soundtrack that swung from Blur to my beloved Morrissey; the perfect pitch for the setting and spot on tone wise. They should sell a CD with the soundtrack.

I have a dislike of the broad stroke ‘Northerners are innately funny and brash, like rough diamonds,’ that theatre and film tends to paint. Thankfully, despite the odd jarring ‘get yir sen ome’ type of line, the characters were all nicely rounded. Disaster and tragedy was evened out with splashes of colour and comedy that didn’t seem out of place. It’s a very assured production and it’s confidence in the storytelling allowed a freedom for the performers to relax into their roles and really have fun with the script.

The cast, which includes stage and screen actors, were on the top of their game in the show.  A stand out for me has to be Luke Adamson whose eight year old linking narrator role was a pleasure to watch.  The constant energy of childhood innocence was striking set against a backdrop of economic and social gloom.  Andrew Dunn (instantly recognisable from his many TV and film roles) was also a huge strength to the ensemble cast, able to travel from despair to slapstick without falling into the trap of pathos.

The second half didn’t flag, which is always a danger.  It whipped along like the first and the odd uncomfortable staging and lighting fault did not detract from the storytelling.  I must admit to wiping away a tear or two in the second half, but as they were both happy and sad tears I’m satisfied that this great show was doing its job.

So, get your tickets and head on back to the nineties for an entertaining evening that will make you think, laugh, cry and stamp your feet to the big brass band. Wonderful!

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