Review

Mark Parry

What a great week it has been for Easingwold Players. Last month saw the culmination of what was certainly one of its most absorbing productions.

Playing to capacity audiences at the Galtres Centre over four nights from April 18, Brassed Off was the play based on a film set in the South Yorkshire coalfield (and in particular the effects of the pit closure on the community of Grimethorpe and its famous colliery band) during the mine closures over 30 years ago.

The production saw the complicated, but ultimately highly successful, collaboration between the Players and two brass bands - Easingwold Town, and Swinton & District Excelsior. The pulling together of such diverse talents and abilities rested on the shoulders of veteran director John Roberts, assisted by professional local actor David Goodwin.

Their creative and organisational skills saw the audiences in absolute raptures, with lengthy applause, cheers and encores greeting the final curtains night after night.

Crucial to the success was the result of specific training from the town band musical director Alistair Shipman and his bandsmen and women to ensure the actors played their instruments with true believability.

This they managed to do so competently that it was virtually impossible to

distinguish between the actors and the musicians on the night. Such skill was demonstrated particularly by Ray Alexander who brought his acting experience to

the role of Danny, the conductor - no mean achievement for Pete Postlethwaite in the film, one assumes, but no less a daunting proposition for Alexander who notably managed to achieve complete conviction in the part.

Sheer numbers of participants, a cast of nearly 20, a backstage and production staff of 24, and over 30 musicians, would usually end in understandable hitches on the night. But thanks to the commitment of everyone involved over many months of frenetic rehearsals such problems failed to materialise so far as the audience was concerned (whether the same applied backstage too is

anyone’s guess!).

The play must also have proved especially difficult to stage in seamless fashion given the incredible number of scenes, exits and entrances.

With the involvement of over 70 people in such a great four-day virtual sell-out production it is clear that everyone played their part with great professionalism. So much so that it would be wrong to single out too many individuals.

But for many theatregoers one of the highlights was the remarkable performance of young teenager William Duffield as Shane, played with conviction, enthusiasm and great verve. This lad will go far.

Mention should also be made of Ian Bullock, whose part as Phil involved the complicated switching between a series of mini- roles within a role, from trombonist, hapless husband and miner to professional clown and devoted son to his dying father.

The last word rests with director John Roberts. “This was probably one of Easingwold Players most challenging productions to date. It is a great tribute to everyone involved that we managed to pull it off, to the evident delight and support of the large audiences every night whose responses were absolutely brilliant.”

Certainly each night’s performances brought much-deserved ecstatic audience reactions, with even a standing ovation on the last night. It was nothing short of a triumph for everything amateur stage stands for - drama, comedy, enthusiasm and, above all, an overarching dose of sheer talent.