A woman who was part of a group which supported striking miners in the 1980s, including her own husband, has been cast in the stage show of hit film Brassed Off.
The stage play has been adapted by Paul Allen based on the screenplay by Mark Herman. Its setting has been relocated to County Durham in a bespoke adaptation for Gala Durham, which is run by Durham County Council.
Cast and crew have now come together for the first time as rehearsals begin for the upcoming production, which will run for three weeks in September.
Among those appearing in the production is 71-year-old Denise Smithson, who along with others has been cast as a member of the Women Against Pit Closures. This follows a casting call which went out to the public.
Denise was part of Eppleton Miners’ Wives Support Group, in Hetton-le-Hole, when her husband Denis was on strike from his job as an electrician in the mines during the 1984/85 period of industrial action. Brassed Off is set 10 years after the strike.
Denise, of East Rainton, said: “When I saw that they were casting for women to be in the Women Against Pit Closures group I thought I’d be suitable. It’s brought a lot of memories of those days back such as being on picket lines and making food for miners and their families in a soup kitchen.“I’ve been an extra in a Ken Loach film that’s due to come out next year, although I’ve not had a speaking part in anything. I’m nervous but excited to perform. I think it’ll be a great show and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Lizzie Glazier, producer of Gala Durham’s Brassed Off and the council’s culture venues and programme manager, said: “We had an amazing response to our call for members of the public to appear as part of the Women Against Pit Closures group and I know the entire cast has been really excited to get started.
“As well as attracting incredible talent in our North East performers, we have also been able to attract some of the best actor musicians in the entire country to our county.
“There’s been a real buzz among the cast and crew and I’m sure their passion and enthusiasm will transmit to audiences.”
Micky McGregor, who will play the role of Phil, has had roles in ITV’s Vera and The Hunt for Raoul Moat.
Sandra will be played by Sarah Boulter and playing Danny is Nicholas Lumley, whose theatre credits include The Pitmen Painters at the National Theatre. Paul Joseph, who appeared in Jerusalem in London’s West End, will play Jim.
Rita will be played by Jacqueline Philips, who grew up in Peterlee. Having previously appeared in Gala Durham’s production of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, Zoe Lambert plays Vera. Howard Chadwick, whose credits include Gentleman Jack, will play Harry.
Playing Andy is Daniel Watson. Daniel’s father was a member of the National Union of Mineworkers. He was directly affected by pit closures and appearing in Brassed Off is of great significance to him and his family.
Making her professional debut is Maddie Hansen who plays Gloria. Her main instruments are the trumpet and flugelhorn.
The production’s cast of nine actors will be joined by young performers from County Durham who will play Phil and Sandra’s children. Members of Easington Colliery Band and RMT Fishburn Brass Band will also perform.
Adapted from the classic film starring Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald, Brassed Off is a funny and life-affirming tale of community spirit and triumph in the face of adversity.
Set in 1992, it begins with Danny’s lifelong ambition to lead his local colliery band from County Durham to the National Brass Band Competition at the Royal Albert Hall. But as the pit faces closure, the future looks bleak as the town is thrown into conflict.
Flugelhorn player Gloria arrives in town bringing with her a renewed sense of hope and a touch of romance, but no-one knows who she’s really playing for.
Brassed Off runs at Gala Durham from Tuesday 6 to Saturday 24 September. Tickets are priced from £20. To book, visit www.galadurham.co.uk/brassed-off or call the Gala Durham Box Office on 03000 266 600.