by The Stage Dragon
Brassed Off is amusing, deeply moving and highly entertaining. It examines the issues within a close-knit mining community and its personalities who escape the harsh realities of redundancy and pit closure by immersion in the world of brass banding.
Adapted for the stage by Paul Allen from the multi-award-winning film of the same name (screenplay by Mark Herman), Brassed Off is based on real-life events of recent history – the breaking of the miners’ unions by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1994.
The fictional South Yorkshire town of Grimley is facing closure of coal mine, ergo the agonising slow death of a town, and this is the inspirational story of that community’s response, their struggle for family life, for their heritage, and for their brass band.
One never quite knows what to expect of local theatre companies, but this first night performance by the Pranksters Theatre Company with musicians from The Friary Guildford Brass Band was a revelation. With well-handled and consistent dialect, the characters became totally believable and individual, the pace of the production was nigh on perfect, and staging and theatrical effect were similarly well executed. Altogether this could have passed for a professional London production. Add to that a great brass band, and the whole thing made an absolutely brilliant evening’s entertainment.
The cast was outstanding, from the venerable Jim Trowers to the young David Ashdown, their performances brimming with confidence and credibility: a real credit to their director Marie Gardner. Sharing the stage as an integral part of the show, The Friary Guildford Brass Band rose to the occasion.
Guildford should be really proud to have such an institution as members of this First Section band, willing and available to take part in such a community production. Banding is a big commitment for the members, with rehearsals during the week, performances and competitions at weekends, all the while earning a living during the daytime, and nurturing the family-work balance.
A special plaudit should go to flügel horn player Lauren Cave who not only brokered the deal with the Pranksters, but also delivered a stunning Concerto d’Orange Juice. It was unfortunate that her solo was necessarily played in the wings, but then that echoes the role of band secretary, pivotal but in the background.
One might perceive present-day Guildford as the polar opposite of a 1990s South Yorkshire mining community, so it was heartening to feel a wonderful spirit of support for two local outfits who throw their efforts into this highly successful joint production.
Brassed Off continues until May 4 at the Electric Theatre – don’t miss it!