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THEATRE REVIEW: Brassed Off, St Nicolas Players, South Holland Centre, Spalding, runs from Wednesday until Saturday

St Nicolas Players' Brass Band in Brassed Off. Photo by Tim Wilson. 050818108SG
St Nicolas Players' Brass Band in Brassed Off. Photo by Tim Wilson. 050818108SG

St Nicolas Players have taken on one of their darkest and most challenging productions in the form of Brassed Off.

Brought to the cinema in 1996 as a film starring Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald, Stephen Tompkinson, Sue Johnston and the late Pete Postlethwaite, Brassed Off is set in a South Yorkshire mining town.

During the time of John Major's 1990-97 Conservative Government, Grimley Colliery is set to close after a review finds it to be no longer "economically viable".

As a result, 1,200 jobs will losses in a dying town which will also see the end of its 100-year-old brass band.

Whilst the miners' wives, led by Rita (Linda Smith) and Vera (Colette Buchanan-Gray), fight to save the colliery, their husbands resign themselves to life on the dole, with no prospect of finding work.

Veteran colliery band conductor Danny (Martin Tyrrell) wants to salvage Grimley's pride by winning a national brass band competition.

But to do so, Danny has to motivate a motley crew of downcast musicians, including his son Phil (Robert Nicholls), Harry (Paul Coleman), Jim (Nick Fletcher) and Andy (Joe Dickinson).

Overshadowing the band's chances of success in the competition at London's Royal Albert Hall is Danny's failing health, Phil's crumbling family life and Andy's turbulent love life after the return to Grimley of childhood sweetheart Gloria (Dominique Spinks).

Themes of family breakdown, living on the breadline, corporate deception and even attempted suicide mean Brassed Off is far either slapstick, situation or stand-up comedy.

Yet audiences going to Spalding's South Holland Centre, where the play starts tonight (Wednesday) and runs until Saturday, will see three memorable performances.

The first is from director Martin Tyrrell himself who stepped into the role of Danny at short notice.

Secondly, Robert Nicholls delivers a repeat of his standout starring role in last year's One Man, Two Guvnors, with help from Emma Dobson, who plays Phil's long-suffering wife Sandra, and exciting young talent Joe Smith (one of the highlights of Act II Theatre Company's Ghostly Tales last October) as son Shane.

But the biggest revelation is the band, wearing the uniform of real-life, County Durham-based Murton Colliery Band which genuinely did close down this summer.

The play's musical directors, Tony Fell, Ed Mason and Chris Brown, have as big a part to play in the success of Brassed Off as the cast and crew.

Musical director for Brassed Off, Tony Fell. Photo by Tim Wilson. 050818111SG
Musical director for Brassed Off, Tony Fell. Photo by Tim Wilson. 050818111SG

Review by Winston Brown


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