"A powerful honest emotional piece"
by Sascha Cooper for remotegoat on 13/09/17

From the very beginning, the audience were reeled in by the effective lighting and sound of the Eastbourne Silver Band to invite us into a world of hardship, teamwork and friendship. Based on the film of the same name, Brassed Off follows the lives of the miners and their families as they fight for their rights to continue to work. Mostly told through the eyes of a young boy called Craig in flashback, this honest stage interpretation blew everyone away.

What was especially unique about this production was the way that both professional actors and community groups came together on stage. It is unusual to see this happen in a setting like this and many would probably think that this was too much of a risk creatively. In this instance, the risk paid off. They not only created a thought provoking piece, but a sense of family and true community spirit. This is a hard thing to create, but professional and community made magic in this show.

On the professional side, everyone involved had extremely emotional and strong performances that had no weak aspects to them. Again, an extremely difficult feat to pull off. Highlights included Jeffrey Holland as the frustrated conductor for the band, who was fighting his own struggles. He showed a very clear journey as he tried to keep the band on track, as well as showing in a sensitive way how a crippling health condition almost destroys a person. Christopher Connel who played Phil really portrayed the hard working miner with an attitude of get rich quick and a heart of gold. Without giving too much away, the way he handles losing his job and almost his dad, is one of the most heart wrenching monologues you will see in a lifetime. This is a true masterclass in portraying despair on stage and worth watching. Other highlights included Miriam Grace Edwards as Phil's long suffering wife Sandra as she tried keeping everyone's head above water with a sheer determination to survive. This was handled character wise with such dexterity and detailed focus that it was almost as if we were on the journey with her. Finally the wonderful chemistry between Clara Darcy and Eddy Massarella (Gloria and Andy) was so raw and enjoyable to watch develop as they reunited after years apart.

In terms of a script set up, the way that all main actors had a monologue each to give the audience an insight into what they were really thinking, plus the choral ensemble of the women fighting for the miners' rights hit home the reality of the situation they were in, plus added the right balance between drama and comedy to create a sense of family and support.

The really thought provoking part of this play however was the ever present focus set wise of the mine itself. As the lighting changed between scenes, although the mood changed, the feeling of foreboding underlined everything that evolved on stage. It reminded us as audience members that although all we saw was a story, it reminded us of the reality of what really happened at the time. Yet again, a hard feat to pull off, but in this instance it was subtle, yet fully impactive.

To sum up this experience, Brassed Off is extremely well put together as a show, plus takes a numerous amount of creative risks that could have gone in a completely different direction. This is a show that really is not to be missed as it continues its UK tour. As aforementioned, all you get here is honesty, community and so much more than just a play...you get a true immersive experience.

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