Brassed-Off 2017 Review

18th May 2017, Evesham Arts Centre, Musical

Director: Alison Roberts
NODA review by: Andy Brown

The stage version of Brassed Off was first performed at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield in March 1998 and subsequently at the Olivier at the Royal National Theatre in London. The action takes place in various locations with a total of 41 scenes over the two acts. Add to this the need to have a live brass band, some challenging characters, a hard-hitting story, some youngsters and you have Brassed Off.

The play takes the audience through a range of emotions especially for those who can remember the demise of the mining industry during the mid 1990’s. We saw how individuals dealt with the inevitable closure of the pit and the effect on the community. This included working relationships, personal relationships and hardships, dedication to the band and failing health.

The play opens with Shane confidently played by Robbie Clear setting the scene and introducing us to the main characters. Shane’s Dad, Phil played by Marcus Gilks portrayed the role of a miner torn between playing in the band, the union and family with feeling showing the struggles he was experiencing with mounting debts, a failing home situation and a longing to buy a second-hand trombone. His wife Sandra (Amanda Golding) was a strong character who was more interested in getting food on the table and keeping the bailiffs away than the fortunes of the band. The pair were well matched and showed the tensions which existed during their family dispute scenes many involving the children.

Danny band leader and father of Phil played by Ken Knight is pivotal to the production. His determination to keep Grimley Colliery Band going and achieve his aim of them playing at the Royal Albert Hall is offset by the demise of the mine as well as his own failing health. He played the tender moments well and when he showed his frustration with band members he played these scenes with conviction. The final scene can be emotive as firstly Danny refuses to accept their award on a point of principal and to hit the news headlines. This is followed by Danny handing over his baton to Shane which if played right can be heart wrenching and this was most certainly done so.

Molly Watson (Gloria) managed to play the role of a British Coal employee carrying out a viability study while also becoming part of the band and befriending Andy effectively.

A supporting cast of miners played by Steve Roberts (Harry), Paul Atkinson (Jim) and Nathan Warren (Andy) worked well together during scenes in the locker room and in the band rehearsal room such as when two of the characters were trying to pluck up the courage to quit the band due to the inability to fund their subs, while the other was, as always, late due to his busy social diary.

Miners wives Rita and Vera (Amy Pinkney and Julie Tew) provided some lighter moments in addition to the determination of Rita and others on the picket line with the ‘The miners united will never be defeated’ rally.  

Relying on a single set comprising of a pithead with winding gear and external view of a house different scenes were depicted using small items of set or furniture and lighting. There were some opening night glitches which were unfortunate such as an inability to hear some of the cast despite the radio microphones. With so many scenes a drop-in pace at times was not surprising and I am sure these sharpened up.

Central to Brassed Off is the music and as far as this goes the audience would not have been disappointed. Bretforten Silver Band looked and sounded good especially playing, Death and Glory, Danny Boy, Concierto de Aranjuez (orange juice) and Pomp and Circumstance March number one (Land of Hope and Glory).  They were a joy to listen to although maybe needed to be softer when playing over dialogue was however interested to read they are the only surviving village band in Worcestershire having been formed between 1894 and the summer of 1895. I’m sure playing and some acting was a new challenge but one which has brought them further recognition.     

Thank you to all at Evesham Operatic and Dramatic Society for your welcome and well done on staging this challenging piece and affording the sensitivity it required.  I most certainly look forward to seeing you again in November at 9-5.