Requiem for a dying pit

Brassed Off

Belgrade Theatre Coventry

*****

TOLD though the eyes of an increasingly aware nine-year-old Shane (Luke Adamson), the story is a deep mine of angst set in 1994 against the backdrop of Grimley, a Yorkshire mining village, whose story echoes the tribulations the north of England went though in the 1980s.

Shane’s family is the Ormanroyds, of which he is the eldest. There’s also Phil, dad, a miner (Andrew Dunn) whose radicalism in the 1984-5 miners’ strike lead to his imprisonment and the family’s current impoverishment, his long-suffering wife Sandra (Rebecca Clay), and two smaller children (unnamed but excellently portrayed).

Phil’s dad Danny (John McCardle) is bandmaster for the Colliery band with a title to win, against the deadline that the mine will close before they get their chance forpicture of Andrew Dunn, (Phil). Andrew Roberts-Palmer (Harry), Kraig Thornber (Jim) and James Robinson (Andy) glory. Newcomer to the band, and returning to Grimley after years away, flugelhorn player Gloria Mullins (Clara Darcy) rekindles (and consummates!) her schoolgirl passion for Phil’s colleague, and euphonium player, Andy Barrow (James Robinson) but she is revealed as ‘management’ and writing the review that will save or close the pit.

Their love story and the Ormanroyds constant battle against debt and the bailiffs provide subplots to the main drama of the interlinked stories of the band and the pit.

Andrew Dunn, (Phil). Andrew Roberts-Palmer (Harry), Kraig Thornber (Jim) and James Robinson (Andy). Picture: ANthony Robling

Neighbours Vera (Gilly Tomkins) and Rita (Helen Kay), wives of the miners Jim (Kraig Thornber) and Harry (Andrew Roberts-Palmer) whose jobs are threatened with the closure are the only ones to put the political case. Rita explains the basic conundrum; mining is hard, badly paid and life-limiting but there are no other choices in Grimley.

Where does this production score over the film version? There are so many answers to this question, in particular the involvement of the Coventry Festival Band (MD Josh Hughes) providing REAL music and the main characters quite literally play in the band. It’s probably worth saying that the storyline of Andy and Gloria is given extra weight in the film version because of the stars involved, but here the story simply rumbles along taking the various obstacles in its long stride.

Does it all sound rather miserable? Well, maybe. But there are moments of pure beauty, particularly the music and some scenes of enormous hilarity in amongst the hard truths of life in a mining village breathing its last.

The scene where the band play in the Saddleworth competition and become increasingly tipsy as the day wears on is wonderful. To 26-04-14

Jane Howard 

Muck, Brass and Orange Juice – the death of an industry

23-04-14

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