Photos Reviews

Brassed Off

March 2012

Estuary Players are delighted to be in partnership with Lympstone Band for this production of Brassed Off. The stage play is an adaptation by Paul Allen of Mark Herman’s film and was first seen in Sheffield in 1998, later that year playing at the Olivier at the Royal National Theatre, London.
The play, set in 1994 at a time of great change in the coal industry, tells the very moving story of impending mass redundancies in Grimley, a Yorkshire mining town, when its profitable colliery is threatened with closure. It is worked out through the lives of miners who are members of the colliery band that also faces closure. The band is led by their passionate conductor Danny, who is determined to take the group to the finals of the National Championships at the Albert Hall. The play moves through many levels of light and shade, joy and sorrow following the lives of these miners and their families, all resolutely helped along by some stirring brass band music.
I have been fortunate to gather together a strong cast of 12 actors, young and old, with some new and some familiar faces. Coupled with the forces of Lympstone Band this will be an exciting project for Estuary Players, which
promises to be an evening of first class entertainment.

“…celebratory and defiant….sheer emotional power…” The Guardian

Howard Eilbeck

Click here to visit the Lympstone Band's site


Shane - Sam Dowell

Phil - Jeremy Davy

Jim - Alan Caig

Harry - Ian Potts

Andy - Ben Beeson

Danny - Bob Drury

Sandra - Kim Brady

Vera - Chris Eilbeck

Rita - Angela Wallwork

Gloria - Marie Taylor

Marie Taylor - Rhodri Williams

Melody - Hannah Williams

Bailiff - Chris Williams

Nurse/Protestor - Tilly Webster

Protestor - Maggie Butt

Members of Grimley Colliery Band - Bryony Snell, Paul Vodden, Annabelle Grose, Colin McEwen, Gill Hawkins, Jess Fordom, Sheila Vodden, Claire Luford, Hannah Vodden, Colin Dance

Production Team:

Director - Howard Eilbeck

Musical Director - Charlie Fleming

Asst Director - Janine Warre

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Stage Manager - Freddie Jacobs

Set - Phil Keen

Lighting - Peter Tapp

Sound - Maggie Bourgein, John Bradley

Props - Lynn Trout, Keith Palmer

Wardrobe - Isla Morgan

Set construction - Eliot Wright

Webmaster - Ben Warre

Band co-ordinator - Bryony Snell

Front of House - Avril Pattinson, Rosie Munns & team

Publicity - Maggie Butt & team


From Estuary Magazine - May issue :

Rousing, funny, moving and humane.....

Can a play performed by a local amateur society hope to emulate a successful cinema film? Well, Estuary Players' production of Brassed Off managed it. Late March seems a long time ago now, but the production is still fresh in my memory and I'm sure it will be a long time before any of the audience forgets Bob Drury's final impassioned speech as the invalid Danny Ormondroyd, turning down the big prize at the Albert Hall on behalf of his beloved Grimley Colliery Band in order to spotlight the tragic effect of the number of profitable British coal mines being closed in 1994.

Now I think about it, for a play with a very strong anti-Tory slant altogether, Brassed Off went down surprisingly well with a Topsham audience, and for this we must give credit to the actors, who led us through sadness and humour with equal aplomb. Young Sam Dowell is especially to be congratulated on his chipper performance and lively relationship with the audience as 14-year-old Shane, the narrator of the whole piece. Shane, Phil and Danny Ormondroyd (son,father and grandfather) are the backbone of the play, and were all well-cast. Jeremy Davy's portrayal of Phil, an almost-defeated man who loves his dour widowed father and his wife and children but cannot make ends meet, was convincing and touching, while Bob Drury as Danny, retired miner and band conductor, set the right tone for his part with a grating Yorkshire accent and caustic tongue in the early scenes, showing more heart later on as his character developed. All three actors worked very well together.

Marie Taylor must also be singled out for her role as Gloria Mullins, a young well-educated girl who returns to her native Grimley only to discover the perfidy of "management". Marie showed just the right amount of worldliness and poise combined with youthful idealism and true affection for the home and people of her upbringing.Partnering her was Ben Beeson as Andy Barrow, local "likely lad" and butt of some of the older miners' contempt, but in essence good-hearted and likeable. I felt Ben was a little old for the part, but as sourcing appropriately-aged actors is often a problem for amateur groups I cannot hold this against him, and certainly he brought charm and personality to his role, plus his well-known musicianship which very much helped in the scenes when he was miming playing the tenor horn.

Which brings me to the other backbone of the play, the Grimley Colliery Band. What a success that was! With only ten "real" musicians from our neighbouring Lympstone South West Telecoms Brass Band, plus skilful positioning of the instrument-playing actors, director Howard Eilbeck managed to create a convincing large brass band, both when seated at their music-stands and when marching around the auditorium.

It's hard to look as if you're playing an instrument when in reality you don't actually know how to produce musical notes from it. In this production of Brassed Off the instrumental coaching of the actors was excellent (although sadly no credit was given for this in the programme). Actor Jeremy Davy in particular, often fully visible to the audience in side view, had me convinced that he was playing the trombone, so closely did he mirror the moves of the "real"trombonist from Lympstone who sat beside him. Gloria's mimed flugelhorn solo was also very good, although I felt she needed to be physically closer to the real soloist, who was cunningly hidden behind a nearby screen. Untutored though the audience's ears might have been, they could detect that the sound was coming from the wrong place! The Lympstone Band's contribution to Brassed Off, however, was very great and Estuary Players must have been delighted to have had them on board for this production. Congratulations to band co-ordinator Bryony Snell.

To return to the actors, praise must go, too, to the curmudgeonly pair of miners, Jim and Harry (Alan Caig and Ian Potts), who as well as "playing" manfully in the band, also provided much of the comedy of the piece. In fact, for a play which is about the grim effects of pit closures Brassed Off has a great deal of humour and the audience was often laughing out loud. Howard Eilbeck directed his actors well: lines which appeared neutral in the script were often given a comic twist by good direction and the actors' timing. One example was when Harry introduced a long pause between "It's not a trumpet. It's an E flat bloody base" (to his wife)and "She knows it's an E flat bass" (to the audience once she was out of earshot) which produced a roar of recognition and laughter from the audience.

Apart from the role of Gloria, this wasn't really a play for women to shine in, I'm afraid, and they often had to be content with a background role, chanting "The miners, united, will never be defeated" over and over again. However, the three "wife" parts, Vera, Rita and Sandra, were well portrayed by Chris Eilbeck, Angela Wallwork and Kim Brady respectively, and Kim in particular played a harassed Mum and financially-stressed wife with feeling.

One or two of the audience I spoke to afterwards didn't take to the very short scenes (or the long black-out periods between them while sets were changed!), but as Howard Eilbeck had explained in the programme, they were the result of the play's adaptation from a film script and personally I didn't mind them at all. I found the play rousing, funny, moving and humane, and although one of the cast assured me it was all because of Paul Allen's excellent writing, I think Estuary Players stamped it with their own particular brand of competence and attention to detail. Well done, everyone.

- Reviewed by: Lily Neal


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