This comedy-drama, set in 1992, concerns the miners of Grimley Colliery in South Yorkshire. Their pit is under threat of closure as part of the Tory's pit closure program. There is to be a vote by the miners to decide whether to take a redundancy package of £23,000 and let the pit close or vote to have the pit reviewed whereby the pit may be classed as viable and remain open. However, if it goes to review and it is still decided to close the pit the miners will only receive £15,000 redundancy instead. The miners are split and many are still suffering the effects of the last big miners' strike in 1984. However, the community has a strong bond, which is proven by the support the Grimley Colliery Brass Band receives. However, if the pit closes the band will probably cease as well.
The story centres on the band members and how many of them are coping with their uncertain future. The band's conductor 'Danny' is suffering the effects of coal dust on his lungs, but this does not deter his enthusiasm for the band. However, his passion for the band blinds him to the real problems of his friends who are suffering hardship and in particular Phil, his son. Phil with his wife and four kids are desperately in debt with the bailiffs knocking at the door. His wife wants to take the redundancy money; Phil wants to vote to keep the pit open. Things are more strained as Phil seems to care more about the brass band and keeping his father happy rather than his family.
"Brassed Off" is very political and contains much anger towards the Tory's, which is very evident in the script. However, it is a touching play that gives an insight of what it must have been like in communities where people's livelihood depended on one industry. The plot is predictable, but it has a fantasy ending which leaves you with a good feeling about human nature.
Peter Armitage as 'Danny', the band's conductor, is in exceptional form. He is an underrated actor in my opinion. He conveys a strong stage presence and performs convincingly. The rest of the cast are adequate and perform soundly with the possible exception of Freya Copeland's trumpet solo, which left a lot to be desired! Freya Copeland plays Gloria, a young woman who has returned to Grimley to write a viability report on the pit for the managers. She decides to join the band and falls in love with one of the band members.
The play did at times seem lost on the big Olivier stage, but this was not evident when the brass band was playing. The professional brass band, made up of members of 'Aveley and Newham Band' and 'Redbridge Brass', performed quite competently.
The popular press liked the play. NICHOLAS DE JONGH of the EVENING STANDARD said, "Only the flint-hearted will miss the theatrical power or pathos of this stage version of Mark Herman's admired movie". THE INDEPENDENT says "It is a story full of belly laughs, full of the human spirit, but the National's adaptation of Brassed Off, directed by Deborah Paige, has a dark forbidding feel to it - which is perfect for the play's grim subject. "A grand night out" says LYN GARDNER of THE GUARDIAN and BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES says it is a "fine adaptation" by Paul Allen.
"Brassed Off" is a touching, heart-warming play, and if you want to see it you had better be quick as it is only playing at the National until 24th June 98 when it then goes on a National tour.