USER (16Jun03): Brassed Off
Birmingham Rep, 10 June 2003
Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse presented Brassed Off, adapted by Paul Allen and based on the screenplay by Mark Herman. Directed by Neale Birch this production has both a physical and emotional impact brought about by the reality of what happened to the mining industry in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s. Designer Hayden Griffin has recreated a most believable scene in which our lifelike characters play out a story of sadness, loss, betrayal and achievement. Set in South Yorkshire in the ‘90s, the people of Grimley are truly brassed off and it isn’t long before the audience is on their side as the realisation that the pit is going to close looms closer and closer.
The cast is led by Bernard Kay as bandleader and grandfather Danny a man whose devotion to music has kept him going through retirement and the loss of colleagues. The real test is yet to come; can he and his band survive the closure of Grimley colliery? Bernard Kay is so believable as Danny and represents the pride of the workers through their achievements in brass band competition.
The reality of pit head protests is well handled by the wives of the miners and Janice McKenzie well known to many as Gloria Pollard in Emmerdale and Kate Rutter are well cast. Likewise long suffering mother of four Sandra is played with conviction by Jo-Anne Stockham and her distress as the family’s belongings are repossessed is heart rending. The victims of the story and in real life were more often than not the wives and children.
The miners, Phil played by Ken Bradshaw, whose attempt at suicide is shocking, Jim and Harry played by Bill Fellows and James Hornsby are incredibly like the miners I’ve known with an almost happy go lucky exterior covering a terrible doubt for the future and loss at what they can do about it. Andy the youngest miner is played by Toby Sawyer and it is his character and Gloria the local girl made good played by Lois Naylor that provide the “love interest” storyline. But, it is destined to be a bumpy ride as she is in the employ of the dreaded NCB management! Both actors are well cast and with the inclusion of Paul Goddard as Shane the 9-year-old son of miner Phil as narrator of the story we have a well-rounded and beautifully observed story.
A special feature of the production is the live music provided by one of the best-known brass bands from the West Midlands, the City of Birmingham Brass Band. The playing was superb and what a wonderful sound and judging by the audience reaction I suspect they may have many new fans as a result of this evening. All told a great show.