Review: Brassed Off

“An uplifting celebration of community pride.” Rosanna O’Donnel reviews

photo credit: Grand Theatre Wolverhampton

photo credit: Grand Theatre Wolverhampton

Venue: York Theatre Royal
Rating: ★★★★☆

The Touring Consortium Theatre Company’s charming production of Brassed Off is sure to brighten the winter blues. Based on the 1996 film by Mark Harman, the show is an uplifting celebration of community pride, whilst intelligently avoiding the glorification of its characters’ struggles.

An impressive set transforms the stage into ‘Grimley’, in 1992, a town facing the closure of its mining pit, as it copes with the harsh reality of unemployment. The threat to the town’s brass band takes centre stage, but it is the individual stories of the community which give the performance its real emotional force. The themes of friendship, love, loyalty and despair are wound seamlessly together by director, Damien Cruden, through the individual tales of the villagers.

The cast gives a wonderfully genuine portrayal of a struggling community. The ensemble are accompanied by a live brass band for the show, with musical director, Nicholas Eastwood, achieving a unique and effective combination of talent on stage. The brass music creates a jubilance mirrored in the audience’s final applause.

A number of daring comedy moments litter the first act, which is upbeat and funny, whilst a real sense of community spirit is achieved on stage. The second act opens with a brief, but brilliant, glimpse into the drunken jollity of its characters, but the pace soon slackens, and the tone is decidedly more serious than in the first act. The second half attempts to cover a lot of ground, and at moments loses force, however this is regained in the final musical moments of the production.

Emotional performances come from Andrew Dunn and John McArdle, as father and son, whilst Luke Adamson gives an impressive representation of eight-year-old, Shane. Gilly Thompkins and Helen Kay provide a unique combination of comic relief and emotional force as the hard-working wives of the miners.

The play is softly political, but it is clearly a production intended to entertain rather than educate, and that it certainly does. A talented band and heartfelt performances make this endearing and touching production well-worth a visit by anyone in need of some cheer.

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