Food for thought in this classy production

Brassed Off at Theatre Royal Nottingham''Photo by Sam Atkins
Brassed Off at Theatre Royal Nottingham''Photo by Sam Atkins

As the threat of closure hangs over Grimley Colliery, families fear unemployment and economic misery, writes John Shawcroft.

Adding to the uncertainty is the future of the pit’s brass band – an unimaginable loss to the community.

Such is the background to Brassed Off (Nottingham Theatre Royal), the stage adaptation of the popular 1996 film, with its charming tale of romance and the political undertones of the pit closures which followed the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

Based on the closure of Grimethorpe Colliery, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire, with the loss of 1,000 jobs, in 1993, this tale resonates today, when many face redundancy in an uncertain world. But the Grimethorpe affair devastated the community, also hitting businesses and firms dependant on the mine for prosperity.

However, there was always the band (and still is at Grimethorpe) and for conductor and retired miner Danny Ormondroyd, there is one dream – victory in the national brass band championships at the Albert Hall.

Danny is sensitively played by John McArdle and there is also a sterling performance from Andrew Dunn as his son, desperately short of money to feed a young family, the bailiffs at the door and where the purchase of a second-hand trombone tips his wife over the edge.

Enter university graduate Gloria Mullins (Clara Darcy), returning to Grimley after a decade away. A talented flugel horn player, she is accepted into the band despite being a relative ‘outsider’ and teenage romance is re-discovered with Andy (James Robinson). Here, again, is another first-rate performance, but love looks doomed when it is discovered that Gloria is carrying out a geological survey on the pit’s future for the management.

A constant theme is the pit’s future and mounting loss of hope spreading among the miners. The band eventually reaches the Albert Hall with a lot of help from Gloria, where Danny, soon to die of lung disease, is the central figure in a dramatic finale.

There isn’t a single weak moment on a stage dominated by a background of pit headstocks and the impressive Trent Brass.

A highly emotional evening, leaving an audience with food for thought and memories of brass band classics.