'Brassed Off' At Theatre By The Lake

...a thought-provoking reminder of our recent history...
Ruth Halsey
July 8, 2024

As a film ‘Brassed Off’ is one of my all time favourites so I was intrigued to see if a play adaptation would move me in the same way.

This play will not disappoint, it is full of humour and heart ache, love and loss, passion and politics and plenty of live Brass Band playing to stir the soul. (Thanks go to Penrith Town Band for swelling the numbers and sound).

The screen play, by Mark Herman, has been brilliantly adapted for the stage by Paul Allen and directed by Liz Stevenson. All the cast were superb; Russell Richardson (Danny) the bossy, straight-laced band leader who has an epiphany at the end of the play; Barney Taylor (Andy) the love struck youngster with a shady past; Hannah Woodward (Gloria) returning to her place of birth with misplaced intentions of helping the community and joining the band; Joey Hickman (Phil), Matt Ian Kelly (Harry) and Greg Patmore (Jim) - miners and best friends struggling with their commitment to their families, their work and their band. Joanna Holden (Vera), Maxine Finch (Rita) and Daneka Etchells (Sandra) brilliantly play their long suffering wives who deal with the life’s hardships in different ways. Finally, Andrew Turner (Shane) who expertly plays the role of the 8-year-old son of Phil and Sandra and narrates parts of the storyline.

The story is set in 1994 and based in the fictional coal mining town of Grimley, in Yorkshire, where the local colliery is due to be closed. The town has a brass band made up of miners from the pit and Danny (an ex miner) battles to keep up the spirits of the band members. This is becoming increasingly difficult until a new, female, flugelhorn player asks to join. Spirits immediately improve and the band embarks on a series of competitions to win some well needed cash.

By chance Gloria (flugelhorn player), and Andy were teenage sweethearts. Will their relationship be rekindled especially when Andy finds out the real reason why Gloria has returned? As the time approaches for the miners to vote to take strike action or accept redundancy tensions run high. Can the band stay together for one last competition at the Albert Hall?

There is minimal set in this production but that adds to the versatile use of the stage. This play is a thought provoking reminder of our recent history and how many of the political issues raised then, can be paralleled today. Above all it is a riveting watch, revealing that there can be humour in the face of despair!

Brassed Off is playing at Keswick's Theatre by the Lake until Saturday 27 th July