REVIEW: Brassed Off, Alnwick Playhouse, until May 23

A dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23
A dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23
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A tale of a Yorkshire pit closure told through the colliery band’s members is hilarious, but resonates with the Northumberland area as an emotionally-charged piece including live music from Ellington Colliery band.

To set the scene, it’s 1992, the miners are on strike and a colliery is about to close.

Jimmy Dodds and Lisa Kelly in a dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

Jimmy Dodds and Lisa Kelly in a dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

The miners are torn between redundancy packages and the picket lines. Band leader Danny’s (Jimmy Dodds) hopes of winning the national brass band competition at the Royal Albert Hall seem like a distant dream.

But the arrival of flugelhorn-playing Gloria (Lisa Kelly) brings romance, hope and controversy to a Yorkshire brass band whose community is on the brink of collapse.

Brassed Off is the latest production from the thespians at Alnwick Theatre Club and on Tuesday evening, I completely forgot I was watching amateur dramatics.

This production truly brings home the hardships of mining in Britain during the 1980s and 1990s and is brilliantly performed by the whole cast.

A dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

A dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

The show itself is an adaption of the true story of the 1996 film of the same title, which is a comedy drama that celebrates the power of music and the capacity of the human spirit to inspire a community to triumph against all the odds.

With a cast of just 18, the smaller spring group of the Alnwick Theatre Club are certainly the best of Alnwick acting I’ve seen in a while.

A show like this needs certain understanding of the hardships that miners went through and every character has got a grasp on this.

Personally, I know the faces like Jimmy Dodds, Peter Biggers and James Matthewson to be more comfortable in comedic roles, but this show is a completely different kind of comedy.

A dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

A dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

All comedic elements are used as a front to hide the overriding fact that their pit is facing closure, a sentiment that is echoed throughout the show. Even in the set, the five-foot-high colliery buildings cast a shadow over their impending job losses and even the female characters don’t understand what they’re fighting for. They’re trying to save an industry which brings employment and defines their town, but at the same time worry for the men’s lives every time they’re down the pit.

The acting scenes in the show were delivered well and the live music from Ellington Colliery band worked superbly.

It was a shame that the great scenes were sometimes halted by long scene changes and the odd sound cue hitch.

That being said, there were no mistakes that could overshadow some fantastic performances this evening.

Paul Tutleman and Liam Cooke in a dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

Paul Tutleman and Liam Cooke in a dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

Jimmy Dodds was at his finest tonight, his final speech at the Albert Hall was delivered with such emotion and passion.

For me, this show was extremely hard to find a lead character; you have young Liam Cooke who plays a great narrator-type character, who is symbolic of the town’s future and watches his father’s and grandfather’s world collapse in front of him. Then there is the great romance of Lisa Kelly and James Matthewson, who give very real and believable performances as part of the romantic element of the show.

There are brilliant duo performances from Peter Biggers and Matt Bush, and Wendy Richardson and Fiona Cuthbert, who bring some light relief to the show alongside another fantastic performance from the acting powerhouse that is Jimmy Dodds.

Performances started tonight and run until Saturday, May 23. Tickets prices are £6 for students, £9 standard and £10 for premier tickets.

Full picture spread and review in tomorrow’s Gazette.

Jimmy Dodds in a dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23

Jimmy Dodds in a dress rehearsal shot of Brassed off at the Alnwick Playhouse from May 20 until May 23