The placid-looking woman selling the Socialist Worker cut a lonely figure as the crowds filtered past her into the Grand Theatre.
But while radical politics might not be quite what they once were, Mark Herman’s dark comedy about the band at a threatened colliery still makes powerful viewing.
It is often said that the best humour is that which comes through adversity, and the satire seems just as sharp today as it did 18 years ago.
Paul Allen’s stage adaptation is largely faithful to the film on which it is based, although its transfer to the theatre does allow for a little bit of licence.
One lovely touch was the scene where the band – including troubled miner Phil Ormondroyd – were playing in the centre of the stage, while his home life could be seen collapsing in the background.
Yorkshireman Andrew Dunn captured Phil’s angst impressively, and former Brookside star John McArdle put in a Brian Glover-like performance as his father, the fearsome conductor Danny. And, given his Liverpudlian roots, McArdle’s South Yorkshire accent was spot on.
But special mention should go to the Jackfield Brass Band, which stole the show with the majestic renditions of everything from The Floral Dance to Jerusalem bringing the house down. And it would have taken a flinty heart indeed not to have been moved by the playing of Danny Boy outside the hospital where the band’s ailing leader lay. It was a powerful, moving story of camaraderie and bittersweet conflict.
And, in Danny’s own words, it was the music that mattered.
By Mark Andrews
See our interview with cast member John McArdle here:
Members of the cast also visited the Museum of Cannock Chase to see its new new exhibition about coal mining. See the pictures here: