A gritty tale powerfully told
The Grange Players
Grange Playhouse, Walsall
THIS stage version of the hugely successful film is vividly presented by a talented cast, with considerable help from members of the Derbyshire-based Newhall Brass Band.
Written and adapted by Paul Allen from Mark Herman's screenplay, the story is laced with raw emotion as the threatened closure of Grimley Colliery in North Yorkshire leads to family problems, clashes between workmates and even an attempted suicide.
As the fight to save jobs goes on ('The Miners, United, Will Never Be Defeated'), veteran bandmaster Danny, a former miner with dodgy lungs, is just as determined to prevent his beloved band folding and lead them to the final of a national competition.
David Stone excels as Danny - a role brilliantly played by Pete Postlethwaite in the movie - and his moving speech when he rejects the coveted trophy won in the Royal Albert Hall leads to quite a few damp eyes in the audience.
There is a particularly moving scene in which the colliery band, wearing helmets with lamps switched on, play 'Danny Boy' at night outside the hospital where their ailing leader is recovering from a severe attack.
Dexter Whitehead (Danny's debt-troubled son, Phil) gives a powerful performance throughout. His financial problems cause a marriage breakdown, brought to a head when his worried wife, Sandra, discovers he has splashed out on a second hand trombone while she is struggling to feed the kids.
Whitehead even gives a demonstration of his ball juggling skills when, in a desperate search for cash, he becomes a part-time clown to entertain local children!
Liz Webster impresses as Sandra, trying to cope with three youngsters and visits from bailiffs, while Aimee Hall provides the glamour as the flugel horn playing Gloria, seen by some of the miners as a management spy when they discover she is really there to carry out a feasibility study on the doomed pit on behalf of the Coal Board - a project which turns out to be little more than a sham aimed at appeasing people.
At first the attractive young lady is welcomed by the pitmen's band when they realise she is such a talented musician, and love blossoms between her and former childhood sweetheart Andy (Joseph Hicklin) who is unaware of her job with the Coal Board when she arrives in her home town, flugel horn at the ready.
Outstanding contributions, too, from Carl Horton and Adrian Venables as tough-talking miners and band members Jim and Harry, while Zoe Maisey and Chas Burnell are their loyal wives, Vera and Rita.
And how the first night audience warmed to the performance of 13-year-old William Young, remarkably mature and thoroughly convincing as schoolboy Shane, torn between his warring parents Phil and Sandra, but full of character and optimism.
For this play to really work there has to be real musicians to support the miming actors, and the Newhall Brass Band tune into the action perfectly, on and off stage.
Some of the industrial language during exchanges between the miners - and even wives - may not be music to everyone's ears, but it's necessary to underpin the reality of the story in this sell-out play produced and directed by Martin Groves. To 17.09.11