Aberystwyth Arts Centre have made a bold but brilliant choice for their 2023 summer season – Brassed Off.
Based on the stage version of the hit 1996 movie about a miners’ band in a town facing the local pit’s likely closure, this reworking is set in the fictional Welsh town of Tonfardre and tells its story with all the heart and warmth of a tip-top brass band performing at its finest.
Richard Cheshire has expertly directed a distinguished group of actor-musicians against the backdrop of Pete Lochery’s industrial, utilitarian but perfectly designed multi-purpose set.
Geraint Rhys Edwards and Seren Sandham Davies pair up beautifully as the loveable if hapless ladies’ man Barry and former local girl Gloria whose mysterious return rekindles an old flame. Veterans Ieuan Rhys and Phyl Harries balance fantastic comedy with embattled resignation as ageing miners Brian and Dai while Sara Harris Davies gives a performance of huge dignity as Brian’s crusading wife Rita, alongside the uproarious comic talents of Gillian Elisa as Dai’s fun-loving wife Vera.
Ioan Hefin is quietly electrifying as band conductor Dafydd – determined to preserve the legacy of town, pit and band – while Joey Hickman and Rachael Garnett play both heartbreak and hope with tremendous grace as Dafydd’s son and daughter-in-law Haydn and Mandy as they deal with the twin pulls of community and poverty.
Special mention must go to local actor Owen Jac Roberts who, at 14, guides the narrative of the show with a sparkling charm and steadiness far beyond his years as Haydn and Mandy’s eldest son Scott.
With a five-strong ensemble of community performers supporting the action (including some familiar faces from Wardens pantos past and present, not least two generations of McNicholls Vales – Julie and daughter Jenna, the latter making her summer season debut aged six - and members of the Aberystwyth Silver Band swelling the ranks of actor-musicians as Tonfardre Colliery Band set its sights on the National Championship, this was a story that was universal in its themes and elemental in its execution. It is a story about elements after all – not just the carbon hauled up from below the town, but the elements of home, family, community and the transcendent power of music, and how these can give hope and support where none should rightly exist.
This production – which has as much to say today about the legacy of deindustrialisation and the triumph of humanity over profiteering as it did thirty years ago when it was set – should be seen by thousands. You have until August 26 to be one of them. Don’t miss out.
See a selection of pictures from the show above, and look at the trailer above.