Fri 12 Jul

Brassed Off Director, Liz Stevenson, tells us what’s in store for audiences

We caught up backstage with Liz for a chat about our new co-production, and why it's going to be a smash-hit with audiences...

Original interview by North Lakes Magazine.

How do you approach a piece like Brassed Off, with it being such a famous film?

I was familiar with the title (who isn’t!?) but I hadn’t actually seen the film until we were considering the play adaptation with our partners (Octagon Theatre Bolton and Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough). I watched it once when we first started talking about it, about two years ago now, and I deliberately haven’t watched it since. It’s important to understand the context of the film but to make it afresh with the team you’re making the show with. I try to remember that people will come to the production with different experiences of the film and of its subject matter. Some people will know and love the iconic film, others won’t have seen it. Some will have been down the pit themselves, or will have been significantly affected by the events depicted in the play. For others it will feel far from their lived experience. We want to make this a relevant and moving experience for everyone who comes to see it.

What has it been like directing Brassed Off?
Exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure! It’s a big show and a great challenge.

What can audiences expect if they come to see the show?
It’s got everything you’d want from a production of Brassed Off – there’s soul stirring live brass music, moving drama and plenty of northern grit and humour. Our show is set in the round, with audiences on all sides, so it’s an intimate experience where everyone is close to the action. We’re imagining that the narrator of the piece is looking back on the events of his childhood in 1994, reliving those memories and seeing them afresh through adult eyes. We’re inviting the audience to consider what has (and hasn’t) changed in the 30 years since the play was written, and the 40 years since the miners strike in 84. It’ll be a memorable theatrical experience and a great night out.

Do you think its message is just as relevant today as it has ever been?

The impact of deindustrialisation, inequality and poverty is still felt today in former mining towns and across different communities around the world. Some of the characters in the play are really struggling and they feel powerless. In the play, Danny Ormonroyd (the part played by Pete Postlethwaite in the film) learns that above all else, “people matter”.  There is a strong sense of community in the play. And of course, the power of music is timeless.

When did your love of theatre begin? (Can you remember the first play/show that you saw? What age where you and how did it make you feel?)
As a teenager I joined my local youth theatre, Chorley Youth Theatre, and it was there I got the bug really! Before that I saw my Dad playing a daft part in an amateur production of Run for Your Wife at Chorley Little Theatre, and I also remember my parents taking me to see Blood Brothers in Manchester. I had a fantastic drama teacher at school and I remember spending hours perfecting my interpretation of the Jabberwocky! So somewhere between these early experiences of making and watching theatre, and being encouraged by the people around me, it’s been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. In my career so far I‘ve done a lot of youth theatre work in a range of settings all over the country. All of this has fed into my passion for creating opportunities for young people to enjoy and create great theatre at TBTL.

How important do you think the theatre is as a medium of social commentary?
Theatre is powerful because it takes you on a journey in somebody else’s shoes. For the duration of that live performance you’re transported to another world, another life. It can challenge your perspective and make you see things in a different way. It’s a very active and immersive experience. Sometimes you go to the theatre and just enjoy a fun night out with family or friends, but it can also be life changing. There have been some shows at Theatre by the Lake where afterwards people have told us that they’ve been deeply affected, and there’s been countless moments of connection and discussion that I’ll never forget. So yes, theatre can make positive change in communities.

Brassed Off is currently on at Theatre by the Lake, and will run until Sat 27 July. For more info about the show and tickets, go to the Brassed Off page here.