Review of Brassed Off as it celebrates brass heritage at Durham's Gala Theatre

It has been argued by some that Brassed Off should be added to the school curriculum.

Brassed Off at Durham Gala Theatre
Brassed Off at Durham Gala Theatre

This may be a step out of reach for many, but they do raise a very good point.

The film is a work of art, depicting struggles of the working class against the backdrop of a systematic dismantling of an entire industry.

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The morals of comradeship and sticking together until the bitter end are timeless and now, thanks to writer Paul Allen, it’s been brought to the stage, with the play running at Durham’s Gala Theatre until Saturday, September 24.

Brassed Off at Durham Gala Theatre

Adapted from the 1996 film starring Pete Postlethwaite and Eoin McGregor, there are few better places to have a theatrical version take place than Durham; a city rich in both brass band and coal mining history.

It is brass band music that takes front and centre in the show, as anyone who is familiar with the film will know, and through the performances the role of the band is played by either Easington Colliery Brass Band or the RMT Fishburn Brass Band.

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On the night I was in the crowd, it was the band from Easington Colliery - fitting that I write this from neighbouring Shotton Colliery.

There were powerful performances across the board from Danny (Nicholas Lumley) Phil (Mick McGregor), and Sandra (Sarah Boulter) all of which grasped the serious and unserious moments of this intensive story.

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Brassed Off at Durham Gala Theatre

The double act of Jim (Paul Joseph) and Harry (Howard Chadwick) brought plenty of warmth in their delivery, whilst keeping with the harsh storyline of the show.

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The real romantic conflict in the story is that of Gloria (Maddie Hansen) and Andy (Daniel Watson).

Andy falls for Gloria who returns to Grimley for work, but the relationship is soured when Andy finds out she works for the colliery management.

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It takes a while, but eventually Gloria convinces Andy and the other miners that she has fought their corner in keeping the pit open.

It is Gloria who, with thanks to the community in Grimley, raises the funds to get the band down to the final in London.

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The performance ended with the superb, ageless monologue from Danny, a piece of speech which never fails to send a shiver down my spine.

Perfectly delivered by Lumley, Danny stands up to address the press and audience at the Royal Albert Hall following the Grimley Colliery Band’s victory at the national championship.

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Lines include “A fortnight ago, this band’s pit were closed - another thousand men lost their jobs. And that’s not all they lost. Most of them lost the will to win a while ago. A few of them even lost the will to fight.

“But when it comes to losing the will to live, to breathe, the point is - if this lot were seals or whales, you’d all be up in bloody arms. But they’re not, are they, no, no they’re not. They’re just ordinary common-or-garden honest, decent human beings.

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“And not one of them with an ounce of bloody hope left. Oh aye, they can knock out a bloody good tune. But what the f*** does that matter?”

The performance was gripping, and his delivery of one of the best pieces of language ever uttered in film was a spine tingling way to end a remarkable performance.