Originally a 1996 film by Mark Herman, Paul Allen later adapted it for stage.
Director Phil Gascoyne makes an immediate impact as the audience are plunged into darkness simulating a deep coalmine with all the accompanying whirrs and hums. We are introduced to the main characters Phil, Jim, Harry and Andy who arrive on stage with overalls, helmets and lights. The Stannington Brass Band then strikes up a rousing rendition of Death or Glory.
The play is set in 1994, a couple of years after Heseltine’s pit closure scheme and a good decade on from Scargill’s Miner’s Strikes. Money is tight but the men are kept sane by boozing and playing in The Grimley Brass Band whilst their wives tackle screaming children or conduct pit closure protests. The play is funny but with serious social and political messages. The standout performance is from Kevin Cheeseright. I was misty-eyed when he made his final speech regarding the destructive Tory government. He perfectly captured Pete Postlethwaite’s repertoire from the film. It was all the more poignant given the great man’s demise last year.
Fran Larkin is on good form as Sandra, a young mother struggling with debt. Stuart Rooker puts in a measured performance as ladies man Andy. Dominic Stevenson at only 15 is confident as Sandra’s eldest Shane, although it’s a bit of a stretch to believe he is nine! Good use was made of a large projection-screen. In particular, there are some amusing photos of the band (plus supporters) on their way to the Albert Hall.