Theatre review - Brassed Off, Blackburn Empire Theatre

Brassed Off, Blackburn Empire Theatre

Brassed Off, Blackburn Empire Theatre - Credit: Archant

“Brassed Off” is the stage version of the classic film of 1996 made famous by Ewan McGregor, Pete Postlethwaite and Tara Fitzgerald. It is inspired by the true events of Grimethorpe Colliery Band and brought to the Empire Theatre by Blackburn Drama Club.

The year is 1984 and there is threat of a miner’s strike as the local colliery in Yorkshire looks set to close forcing thousands of men out of work. By day the miners work side by side and by night they are joined together by one love, music. The miners form the Grimethorpe Colliery band, a brass band that is at threat of closure as well as the pit itself. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy, Shane, and his take on the consequences of events. With forced closures comes heartache, old familiarities, loss, love and a Flugelhorn!

Paddy Walsh was back on directorial duties for this next play and he has done an absolutely phenomenal job. Not only did he have to contend with constant quick scene changes, but also a brass band on the stage as well as the cast with a lot of movement and minimal space all handled effortlessly. The telling of the story and the transition of each scene were punchy, swift and flawless. Each emphatic element of the play was honed to perfection with the peaks and troughs of the humour quickly followed by periods of dismay performed triumphantly.

With strong direction comes a strong cast who pulled together to make this evening a truly memorable one. Once again, the conveyor belt of talent offered us some familiar faces with some new ones and proof that Blackburn Drama Club have so much unbelievable talent in the palm of their hands. With a cast so large and so good it is almost impossible to know where to begin with superlatives. With similar situations come similar people, but with completely different characteristics and Paddy Walsh has managed to pick a perfect cast to convey those differences. Roy Washington took up the role of Danny, the band leader, a man of wisdom and many words, those that include the immortal ones that despite everything “there will always be music” a performance delivered with such captivating magnitude. Strong performances alongside Roy came from all variety of angles. Matt Brooks and the ever so talented Neely Jillings played the roles of Phil and Sandra, a couple who have little money, little hope and also four children to feed. The emotion captured in both actors’ roles was exceptional and often very moving. Ryan Coe and Louisa Harkness played Andy and Gloria, two old flames reunited by the pit, but in very different ways. Both performed the roles perfectly capturing the awkwardness of reigniting a flame, but also the difficulties of tough love. Harkness showed even more talent than just her acting when she stepped out front to play the impressive solo from the Concierto de Aranjuez faultlessly on the Flugelhorn. Steven Derbyshire and Martin Cottam were bandmembers, drinking partners and best friends, Jim and Harry with very solid performances sculpting the perfect duo. Their spouses, Vera and Rita, played by Suzanne Nolan and Kate Roberts were wonderful. From fighting the cause one minute to fighting their husbands the next, the pair put in a performance of the highest standard.

With the story centred around a brass band it is fitting to have a special mention to this brass band in particular who not only performed the music from the show, but also did a bit of acting themselves as well. The competition in Saddleworth being a particular highlight! The music was provided by Blackburn & Darwen Brass Band who played superbly and really heightened every single emotion from the show.

Finally, I must reserve special mention to Amaan Hafiz who played the role of Shane. He burst onto the stage with so much confidence and so much talent continuing throughout the show and getting better in every scene. It is quite a big task for someone so young but handled very maturely. There is definitely a bright future ahead of him.

Brassed Off showcases some of the country’s best loved songs performed on the country’s best loved instruments. It speaks a story that is still relevant and tells of highs and lows that we all still face to this day. Blackburn Drama Club have encapsulated absolutely everything required with this performance and put on one of the best shows I have ever been privileged to see.

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The only downside was that it had to end.

If you are lucky enough to have a ticket to see this show, then you are in for a treat. If not, you need to move quickly as the last two nights on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th November are selling out fast. Just head over to the website at for tickets.