I watched Brassed Off for the first time and found the tale of human spirit unforgettable

Brassed Off is a rousing tale of the fragility and tenacity of the human spirit, with a boatload of laughs and wit thrown in along the way
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Brassed Off has been on my radar since what feels forever, and I was pleased to finally make time to watch it at Derby Theatre for press night yesterday (Tuesday October 3).

The story revolves around the impending closure of a mining pit in Yorkshire and its brass band that pulls together to compete in a national competition in a bid to boost morale and community pride.

I wasn’t aware it was based on a true story, just that it was a hit film from the 90s and that its theatrical shows had enjoyed great success across the country.

The first Brassed Off show at Derby Theatre was in 2015 and the music ensemble featured in each production since has been Derwent Brass band.

It is an historic partnership that works because the music from the play feeds the soul.

The music is like a main character with top billing, who holds your hand through tough times - and trust me, there are a few harrowing scenes in the play - whilst providing hope that maybe, just maybe, a happy ending is in sight.

The brass band’s rendition of Westlife’s You Raise Me Up, and Puccini’s Nessun Dorma are two toe-tapping musical performances that put a smile on my face.

The plot itself circulates around 10 key characters, each well rounded so you feel as if you know them, despite them having limited stage time.

One of the main families is mum-and-dad duo Phil (Jimmy Fairhurst) and Sandra (Jo Mousley) who have three children and who are living hand-to-mouth.

It is their son Shane (Fraser Fowkes) whose short and punchy monologues not only provide a guiding light through the narrative, but also seek to inject humour into the play.

Father Phil dons a clowns costume and tries to do magic tricks, much to the dismay of his bored son Shane | Image Pamela Raith PhotographyFather Phil dons a clowns costume and tries to do magic tricks, much to the dismay of his bored son Shane | Image Pamela Raith Photography
Father Phil dons a clowns costume and tries to do magic tricks, much to the dismay of his bored son Shane | Image Pamela Raith Photography

The 1996 Hollywood film starring Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald and Ewan McGregor, was marketed as a comedy-drama.

To say Brassed Off is a comedy drama, would be disingenuous, because in reality Brassed Off is so much more than that.

Yes there is a romantic element in the film, chiefly between Gloria (Seren Sandham-Davies) and Andy (Thomas Wingfield).

And yes those scenes did add a touch of lighthearted rom-com vibes, especially in Gloria and Andy’s exchange at the end of their first band practice.

However, I couldn’t help but feel myriad, conflicting emotions as the show progressed.

Some parts of the show saw my spirit soar, sky high, smashing through Derby Theatre’s roof.

For example the scenes focusing on Phil’s family, depicting a happy family were heartwarming.

The same family could go through some pretty tragic scenes though, as they battled depression and poverty in the face of life-changing news concerning the pit’s future.

It is worth mentioning that the show has an advisory note.

One scene that makes reference to suicide left an audience member sobbing, so do be aware of this aspect.

Comedic scenes between Vera (Lisa Allen) and Rita (Kate Wood) had me chuckling, whilst one of the standout performances for me, on the night, was by Harry (Howard Chadwick) who has impeccable timing to deliver one-liners that burn like hell.

Danny (Gareth Williams) has such gravitas, that when he’s performing, it is difficult to tear your eyes away from him.

The hospital scene where he and his son Phil, finally have a heart-to-heart, is poignant and I am reminded all over again, about the acting talent that is off the scale in this production.

Brassed Off has an accomplished, stellar cast and one that delivers an unforgettable performance, scenes that will stay with you long after the curtain has dropped.

Fellow audience members loved the show too, as is evidenced by the standing ovation amid rapturous applause.

For more information about Brassed Off at Derby Theatre visit this website here.

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