Brassed Off (Oldham Coliseum until 1 October)

BRASSED OFF

7 SEP – 1 0CT 2016

“I don’t know anyone who admits to voting Tory but t’buggers keep getting in”.

 

Coal not Dole

Coal not Dole

Brassed Off film fans will very much enjoy the Oldham Coliseum Theatre production of the hugely successful screenplay by Mark Herman.  Local prize-winning brass bands from Saddleworth feature on stage stealing the show with their numbers.  Paul Allen’s adaptation transports you to the Yorkshire landscape of 1994 where 10 year old narrator Shane (Thomas Weir) – who dreams of being a world champion at The Crucible – introduces the significant others in his world.  These are the days when everyone was either your aunty or uncle.  Shane tells us his mum is “mental”: “it’s because we’ve got no money I think”.  His mum, Sandra (Natalie Grady) yearns for the merriment and mirth of a carefree night out, to escape her son asking: “Why are we so poor?”

 

Shane's parents (Natalie Grady and Paul Barnhill)

Shane’s parents (Natalie Grady and Paul Barnhill)

“Even the men don’t wear suits around here”.  An outsider arrives in Grimley with her flugel horn in tow, hoping to be welcomed and permitted to join the band?  Delph and Dobcross and other Saddleworth villages await the marching band.  Danny has big dreams beyond marching bands, to play at the Albert Hall but Shane’s dad – Danny’ son – cannot afford food for the family table and the threat of the bailiffs and loan sharks is looming. Will Danny’s dream come true?

 

Danny (Ged McKenna)

Danny (Ged McKenna)

The locker room ‘Yorkshire man’ banter between the miners amuses and saddens the audience.  Their wives are dedicated to providing moral support chanting ‘coal not dole’ and ‘say yes to miner’s jobs’ at the picket line. The women campaign to keep the pits open even though they hate the dangers of the pit.  The closure of the pit looms.  Anxieties increase as 1200 jobs are to go.  Communities, homes and lives will be destroyed.  As well as humour and drama, the play offers deep sociological insight about growing up in a close-knit mining community, social class divisions, generational changes, the threat of pit closures and unemployment and gender roles.

 

The Delph Band

The Delph Band

The men worry about idle prospects of watching Richard and Judy with their wives made to seek jobs to feed the family.  Hope prevails for the wives: “the pit ain’t gonna close it is?”  The tough men though can barely afford to contribute to the colliery band kitty, but are “shitting bricks” to tell Shane’s grandad Danny (Ged McKenna).  The jubilance and joy brought by band practice gives the locals a much needed camaraderie.   The band brings the townsfolk together: “The band symbolises pride”.  And Danny knows ‘music never lets you down’ even if there is frustration, bitterness and resentment brewing because of socio-political changes tearing friends and families apart.


Categories: Reviews, Sociological Fiction

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