City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Brassed Off, King's Theatre, Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 01 May 2014

Brassed Off band
Show Details
King's Theatre
Touring Theatre Consortium, York Theatre Royal and Octagon Theatre Bolton
Damien Cruden (director), Paul Allen (adaptor of screenplay by Mark Herman), Dawn Allsopp (designer), Mark Howland (lighting designer), Nicholas Eastwood (musical director)
Luke Adamson (Shane), Rebecca Clay (Sandra), Clara Darcy (Gloria), Andrew Dunn (Phil), Helen Kay (Rita), John McCardle (Danny), Andrew Roberts-Palmer (Harry), James Robinson (Andy), Kraig Thornber (Jim), Gilly Tompkins (Vera)
Running time: 

It’s some 18 years since the film version of ‘Brassed Off’ first appeared, and, as recent reconsiderations remind us, 30 since the 1984 miner’s strike. Long enough for a generation to grow up baffled by references to events that to them are no more than history.

So perhaps it’s time to dust off one of the most accessible interpretations of what those events meant to the communities that experienced them first hand.

Pit winding gear, together with the gate to a ‘cage’ dominate the stage, and as Shane (Luke Adamson), grandson to bandmaster Danny (John McCardle), takes us back twenty years, the sound of Grimley Colliery’s band is heard once again, reincarnated on this occasion by the Dalkeith and Monktonhall Brass Band, itself in part a former colliery band.

Those unfamiliar with the story of a band in crisis as the attrition of the lengthy strike takes its toll on family and working relationships may not realise its basis in fact – Grimethorpe Colliery Band won the National Brass Band Championship within three days of the pit’s closure, rather than the three weeks grace given to Grimley.

The version of ‘Brassed Off’ presented here sticks closely to the original script – all the right lines, one might say, and mostly in the right order, with rather more respect for the activities of Women Against Pit Closures than was apparent in the film, even if some of that is subsumed in comedy.

There’s more space on stage also for the relationship of Danny and his son Phil (Andrew Dunn), even if the latter’s breakdown in his clown’s outfit somehow seems a less heart-breaking cry of despair.

Yet among the incidents those of us familiar with the story tick off as the band progresses fitfully toward the dénouement at the national Brass Band championships, room is made to develop relationships and characters further than in the original.

Sometimes, though, there’s a little too much of sticking to the script as she was wrote, where more thought on how to treat some of the original’s more filmic moments might have produced a more theatrically satisfying evening.

It’s perhaps unavoidable that those of us who know and love the film, despite the rather less fairytale ending of this stage version, will feel that ‘this is Brassed Off, Jim, just not as we know it’. That said, this remains a very bright and brassy interpretation, and absolutely the next best thing.

Show times

Til 3 May, 7.30pm (Wed/Sat 2.30pm)