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Brassed Off - Adapted by Paul Allen

Published on September 12th 2005.

Based on the screenplay by Mark Harman

Regional theatre is alive and well and currently residing at Oldham Coliseum. This is yet another superb production of a play atmospherically well suited to the ambience of this environment.

A wonderful night out for those lucky enough to get one of the few remaining tickets. A comedy, a tragedy, a political polemic, a celebration of the brass band, a heart rending display of mans’ inhumanity to man and much more. Rarely will two and a half hours in a theatre pass so quickly and evoke so many different emotions.

Grimley is a fictional mining town near Barnsley. It is 1994. The coal mining industry is in its dying throes. The colliery is under threat. The community is fighting a losing battle for its continuing existence and in the middle of this desperate village, the focal point of activity for some of the miners, Grimley Colliery Band.

How well the story is woven together. Much pathos, humour and passion follow the lives of the participants in this everyday story of mining people who are watching hundreds of years of history disappearing from under them. The threads of such story are exceptionally well drawn and the use of a narrator, ‘Shane‘, the son of ‘Sandra‘ and ‘Phil‘ adds emphasis and explanation when needed.

The 1996 film has acquired iconic status and a considerable cult following. The performances of Pete Postlethwaite and Stephen Tomkinson, amongst a glittering cast, are hard acts to follow. I was enthusiastic about the whole ensemble and able to judge them on their own merits without reverting to nostalgia. Praise indeed, to fend off such competition.

This performance also has a particular merit the film version could not offer. The brass band music is played live. This atmospheric theatre fits the small northern mining village well. The brass band music complements it perfectly. It is so much a part of the evening. Add to this the live ‘Concerto D’Orange Juice‘ by Rodrigo, played so well on the flugelhorn by ‘Gloria Mullins ‘ (the real life Helen Power) and you have just some of the ingredients that make the whole evening so special.

Possibly the fact that The Saddleworth & District Whit Friday Brass Band contest takes place on Oldham's doorstep adds local colour, but more than that, the clever design by Richard Foxton brought a real life to such contest.The cast were uniformly excellent with standout performances by Marie Critchley and Steve Huison as ‘Sandra’ and ‘Phil’. Robert Mallard as ‘Shane’ was a first class Narrator. Chorus and conductor. The brass band wonderful. As four local bands play on different nights I can only wish you as much pleasure from yours as I received from mine.

I have little doubt that it being played in Oldham helps enormously. It is deftly directed by Kevin Shaw who takes great advantage of the northern setting and an adaptation and design which helps give it just the right feel.The music is an integral part of the night. Perhaps even the outstanding contributor. It adds immensely to a very powerful evening of theatre. The play will make you think as you ponder whether the outcome is celebratory or otherwise.

Quick competition: - What is 'Brassed Off'? A comedy, a tragedy or a just a piece of northern pathos? Send your own mini reviews (less than 50 words) using the form below.

The winner (chosen by me and definitely not Gordo) can accompany me to a forthcoming review of their choice.

Richard Burbage

Oldham Coliseum Theatre
0161 624 2829
Until October 1st 2005

Theatre Competition

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