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Brassed Off,

Brassed Off,
King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
When an unemployed miner dressed in a clown suit attempts to hang
himself from the machinery he once worked among to the strains of a
brass band arrangement of Jerusalem, it's a damning indictment of how
one of Britain's greatest industries was treated with contempt. It's
also an image which takes Paul Allen's stage version of Mark Herman's
1996 film beyond being purely feel-good to something bigger and braver
in Damian Cruden's production, an alliance between the Touring
Consortium, York Theatre Royal and the Octagon Theatre Bolton.

Like the film, Allen's play is set in the fictional Yorkshire town of
Grimley, where, a decade after the 1984-85 miners strike collapsed, the
pits are about to finally close. One of the few lifelines for the town
is its brass band, run with messianic fervour by ex miner Danny, played
by an impassioned and understated John McArdle. While families become
increasingly divided, James Robinson's local lothario Andy falls for
Clara Darcy's prodigal girl made good Gloria, who may be a fine flugel
horn player, but is also in the pay of the bosses.

All this is told through the eyes of Danny's grandson Shane, who, as
played by Luke Adamson, looks back at his eight year old self before
the baton is passed on. Such a heart-felt and vital reminder of recent
history shows how the fragile social glue of a community can be ripped
apart, but still survive. This is proven by the heroic presence onstage
of the Dalkeith and Monktonhall Brass Band, who lend even more
authenticity to a fine-tuned piece of intelligent populism that should
be seen at all costs.

The Herald, May 1st 2014


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