Tuesday, July 16

Brassed Off – Theatre by the Lake

Music is a universal language, and it has been at the heart of many working class, Northern communities for generations. And audiences at Theatre by the Lake get the privilege this month of hearing and feeling how brass band music welded people together, gave them strength and pride.

The stage adaptation of the hit film Brassed Off blasts into the Keswick theatre and touches the soul.

The actors who have come together for this production, in association with the Octagon Theatre Bolton, and Stephen Joseph Theatre, are more than triple threats, they are triplet blowing brass players, who blend seamlessly in with local bans people from Penrith Town Band.

The bandsmen and women give a great musical and acting performance in this production.

The story of the ballot on whether to take a payoff and close one of the last coal mines in Yorkshire is the tale of a community ground down by strikes. They are weary from fighting for the right for their men to go deep into the earth, work in cramped, dangerous conditions, and to earn a fair days pay for a fair shift’s work.

Photo: Pamela Raith

Conductor and leader of Grimley Colliery Band, Danny is a proud man, who spent his working life underground, digging out coal. And his lungs are now paying the price for his labors.  Russell Richardson gives a majestic performance of the man trying to keep his community together.

His son Phil, who was sent to prison during the battles of the miners’ strike in the 1980s, is still paying off debt his family built up just trying to survive. Daneka Etchells as his wife, Sandra gives a moving performance. Their children Craig and Melody from the Youth Cast were so natural on stage. Their elder brother, Shane played by Andrew Turner tells the tale of Grimley, its people and the band through his child’s eyes. His performance is magical, and the interaction between his character and Craig and Melody is believable.

During the miners strikes, the Miners’ Wives were at the heart of the fight, and Maxine Finch as Rita captures that tough, gritty spirit of the women who had to keep the kids feed with no money coming in. Joanna Holden as Vera creates a lovable character you could see in any working men’s club before the turn of the millennium. Vera and Rita together represent the strong females of the North.

When Gloria, granddaughter of a former bandsman returns to Grimley the divide is heightened. Hannah Woodward plays the young flugelhorn player as beautifully as she plays the instrument, giving a solo performance of Nessun Dorma.

Gloria’s love interest, Andy is played by Barney Taylor who gives a strong performance as the lad about town – which sits beautifully next to the older miner’s characters, Jim and Harry played by Greg Patmore and Matt Ian Kelly.

Little Shane would be the same age as the actor playing him is now, and looking back on that time that changed his and all the other families lives seems more real for taking that journey back in time with him.

Revisiting this story, based on the demise of Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s pit, feels different after almost three decades. With the added perspective of time, and hindsight, knowing what thousands of families put themselves through, and what they lost, you are left with a feeling of melancholy.

However, brass banding has kept the names of the mining communities alive, and the music performed in the round at Theatre by the Lake warms your heart and leaves you with hope – which is has done for generations for bandsmen and women.

Brassed Off is at Theatre by the Lake until Saturday 27th July. https://www.theatrebythelake.com/whats-on/

Reviewer: Karen Morley-Chesworth

Reviewed: 2nd July 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.