Review: Brassed Off,  Bolton Octagon. Runs till June 14

Anyone who lived through the miners’ strike of 1984 will remember the bitterness and tragedy of that momentous event in history.

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In the thirty years following the strike, there have been few attempts at capturing the subject in dramatic form. Billy Elliot managed it but is mostly remembered as a tale of a young lad who wants to dance.

Mark Herman’s film, Brassed Off is the only notable piece of drama which explored the real issues and has now been brought to the stage at the Bolton Octagon.

The Octagon’s treatment is something special as the issues are brought to today’s audience through the eyes of a man remembering a childhood in the aftermath of the strike in 1992 when the pit closures began to bite.

Grimley colliery is about to close and Danny’s hopes of winning the national brass band competition at the Albert Hall seem like a distant dream.

But the arrival of flugelhorn-playing Gloria brings romance, hope and controversy to a Yorkshire brass band on the brink of collapse.

Anyone comparing this to Herman’s film will be disappointed. But this play is a great piece of drama in its own right. It pulls no punches as we witness the tragi-comic decline of Phil brilliantly portrayed by  still living with the financial consequences of having been victimised and jailed for his part in the strike.

There is also a great interplay between Andy and Gloria and an exploration of the conflicts of loyalties as the young miner “sleeps with the enemy”.

The subject matter is darkly bleak, but the play is nevertheless infused with humour and the great spirit of working men and women fighting back. And of course the wonderful of the wonderful music of the Wingates Brass Band is uplifting

And perhaps there is an overall sense of optimism as the baton in handed on to the next generation.

Make the trip to Bolton and see this play.

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