Theatre Review: Brassed Off!

Brassed Off at The New Vic is the world’s first theatre in the round version of the play. Conrad Nelson has returned to the New Vic to direct this new production of Paul Allen’s adaptation of Mark Herman’s lauded screenplay. The show also features feel good music performed live on stage by Crewe’s very own TCTC Group Champion Brass Band and they certainly don’t disappoint.

This is a truly heart-warming story with a real tough streak. While showcasing local talented actors and more notably the TCTC brass band, the play’s theme of hardship in a mining community in 1994 resonates with a post-Brexit economic anxiety.

Still suffering from the after effects of the long strike a decade earlier, Grimley Colliery families are divided by the offer of redundancy money if they vote for pit closure. Miners still play under their conductor Danny and are joined by Gloria, whose musical instrument background is a welcome addition but who is working for the National Coal Board referred to in the play throughout as “the enemy.”

Conrad gives Shane, Danny’s grandson, the job of introducing the story of the band’s competitive exploits: Fred Conway played Shane the night I visited and he did a magnificent job of portraying this character. He played a junior role in a matured manner with ease (one to look out for in the future). Martin Barrass as Danny is endearingly passionate about the music and the band and resembles that performance of Pete Postlethwaite from the movie. He is dying from coal dust in his lungs, but touching in his final realisation that people matter more than correct brass notes.

The romantic comedy element is well handled during the play by Clara Darcy as Gloria and Nicholas Shaw as snooker-playing trumpeter Andy. Conrad Nelson directs a well, disciplined ensemble, community actors blending seamlessly with the professionals, and Lis Evans’ set, with its suggestion of a pithead and terraces, allows space for the feel of a Yorkshire mining town.

Other notable performances during the play are from Howard Chadwick (Harry), Andy Cresswell (Jim), Susie Emmett (Sandra), William Fox (Phil), Natasha Lewis (Vera) and Helen Sheals (Rita).

Brassed Off runs until Saturday 22nd June.

Reviewed by David Bithell.