Theatre Review: Brassed Off

By Julia Parry | 20th February 2014

Brassed Off is well known as a poignant 1996 British comedy-drama film written and directed by Mark Herman; starring Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald and Ewan McGregor. Set in the early 1980’s and the coal mine in a northern English village is rumoured to be closing, which would also mean the end of the Grimley Colliery Brass Band.

This year represents the thirtieth anniversary of the miner’s strike. Britain’s miners embarked on a strike over pit closures. In the year-long struggle that ensued, the biggest losers were ordinary miners. In reality what Thatcher and her government did was categorically rip people’s lives apart. Coal mining wasn’t just a job; it was a way of life.

York Theatre Royal’s 2014 theatre production of Brassed Off has been adapted by Paul Allen and is based on the screenplay by Mark Herman. To coincide with the 30th anniversary the production is a heartening drama that remembers the miners, their families and a community caught in uncertainty and upheaval. Grimley Colliery faces the threat of closure and the future of the brass band is uncertain, workers are torn between accepting a redundancy package and the picket lines. The miner’s wives supporting their husbands by taking part time jobs and demonstrating daily at the coal mine.

The many miners of Brassed Off

The many miners of Brassed Off

Band leader Danny, played brilliantly by John McArdle, is a passionate man inspired by a love of music and the Grimley Colliery brass band winning the national brass band competition. The production features a live brass band which plays a glorious emotive score of Hymns and Arias. There is something truly magical witnessing first hand a brass band, cloaked by a sonorous uplifting drone, the music meritoriously ached.

Having a laugh amid the drama

Having a laugh amid the drama

Brassed Off is a celebration of human endeavour and community spirit against the odds.

It is a fitting anniversary tribute to mining communities who were well and truly shafted by the politicians who we have recently found out (due to the thirty year ruling) had always intended to close coal mines all over the country. The miner’s ballots were no more than a cruel game of politics.

Another triumph for director Damian Cruden. Brassed Off is at York Theatre Royal from Friday 14th Feb – Sat 1 Mar 2014. The production then tours to various regional Theatres across the UK.

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