13 Nov

BRASS
Book Music and Lyrics by Benjamin Till
Additional Lyrics by Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker.
At the Union Theatre

“Brass” was commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre in 2014 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Great War. Playwright and composer Benjamin Till had been nursing a lifelong obsession with the subject of World War One so he was the obvious person to write the musical play about it..
And now it is appropriate that Sasha Regan should chose to direct this play in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of that conflict.
There has been such a huge amount of publicity on the media about this anniversary so it cannot possibly have escaped anyone’s notice .However this is a real and very sincere reminder to us and in addition, gives humour, songs and realism to the characters involved in the events of the time.
It was a habit of the recruiting officers to employ groups of young men – fellow workers or football teams etc to keep each other company during training to be soldiers. These groups were called the Pals, and it was a stroke of genius to make this set of Pals members of a brass band.
These boys are members of a West Yorkshire Brass band who all enlist together – even though some of them were under the age to join up and were so keen to be heroes that they lied about their ages and despite pleading letters from their families to own up and come back home, those children went out bravely to fight with their companions.
But the story is not just about the men, women were also recruited to work in the munitions and takeover the jobs that the boys had left behind. Not only that, but also women took up the instruments and played while the boys were playing a different kind of notes in the trenches, the mud and fleas of the Somme..
Till has invented an interesting group of characters some rousing lusty soldier songs and some wistful ones of separated lovers, pregnant wives without their men, as well as the horrifying drama of young men in the trenches.
There are some good voices and lovely harmonies arranged by the musical director Henry Brennan who slaves away at the piano. The choreography is extremely well thought out, making full use of the long tables which serve as furniture and background to all the scenes..
The stories are many and must be kept secret in order to avoid spoiling. But it is a worth -while piece of theatre. I found it a little long but there are so many stories to tell. Maybe a few cuts would be in order.
Nevertheless it shadows the feelings of the country at this time, Moving, thoughtful and laced with humour

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