It’s the much loved film which tells the story of the Grimley Colliery Band as they fight to keep their pit open in 1994, whilst simultaneously trying to reach the Royal Albert Hall in the finals of National Brass Band Competition. And now Brassed Off is a total triumph for the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre as their first in house production in over 40 years proves to be a brilliantly funny and absorbing piece of theatre that doesn’t shy away from pulling punches. I absolutely loved it.
The beauty of Brassed Off is that it has a wryly funny, often hilarious Northern humour that contrasts so strongly against the stories of despair and desperation. It could be the most depressing hours of theatre, but due to the characters who are gritty and real, and the pithy one liners and asides, Brassed Off is actually life affirming and rather wonderful, you really cheer on this village and their quest to get to the Albert Hall, and you feel their pain as they face debt, illness, loan sharks and helplessness.
The cast is (band)uniformly excellent, with veteran Jeffrey Holland giving band leader Danny a real gravitas. The film role was played by the brilliant Pete Postlethwaite who left big shoes to fill, but Jeffrey more than rising to the challenge, filling Danny with pride and pathos, particularly in those poignant later scenes when he is confined to a hospital bed, and the stirring final scenes. He is matched by Christopher Connel as his tragic son Phil, a man who has totally reached rock bottom but still seems to be going further down, and Miriam Grace Edwards as wife Sandra, a women at the end of her tether as the loan sharks take everything she owns, down to a washing basket. Their scenes are super charged with tension and pain and they both perform brilliantly, if anyone thinks the worst of the miners plight ended in 1984/5 then the scene of Phil attempting suicide in his clown suit is a sombering reminder of what governments did to proud hardworking men.
But Brassed Off is funny to, with Tim Jones and Greg Yates giving the play its funny heart as veteran miners Harry and Jim. Harry’s feisty wife Rita (Donna Heaslip) might be manning a female only picket, but Harry is more concerned with having another ‘wet’ with his lifelong pal. This leads to lots of funny scenes where their banter and physical comedy just shines through. Susie Wilcox as Jim’s wife Vera is also good, a salt of the Earth character, kindly slipping money to struggling Sandra, but honestly asking questions of what life would be like if they took the redundancy money.
The central relationship between young miner Andy and Gloria, returning to the town she grew up in and rekindling a teenage romance, is sweetly handled by Eddy Masserella and Clara Darcy respectively, it feels real and raw rather than sugar coated. And mention must be given to Ash Matthews who plays 8 year old Shane perfectly, and acts as a narrator to bookend the action.
Brassed Off is a story of the human spirit, of communities sticking together in the face of enormous adversity. It tells its story with charm and humour, and with the stirring sounds of a wonderful Brass band belting out the Floral Dance and the William Tell Overture it is completely winning.
Fri 25 Aug – Sat 2 Sep
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