The Union Theatre is not one of the most talked about venues for hosting new and unheard of Musical Theatre, but it is a very, very good one. Its production of Brass has only continued its success. Benjamin Till’s heart wrenching piece was originally commissioned in 2014 by the National Youth Music Theatre, but it is particularly apt in Britain at a time of year when we both commemorate 100 years since The Armistice, and also anticipate great change in the United Kingdom.
While it does not shy away from the true heartache of being involved in such conflict, it is not all solemn. There are moments of hilarity, and the book is sufficiently uncomplicated for anyone to follow the notions of what it is to be either at war, or waiting for loved ones to return. The score is provoking and beautiful, but also not quite diverse enough for the 20 song, 2 1/2 hour piece, which results in most musical numbers beginning to sound very similar by the second act.
In a fantastic cast of 16, it is clear that this piece has been written deliberately to showcase all members. There is not one weak link, and distinctly northern tones of the whole pieces brings a refreshing change from the all too often nondescript settings or accents in productions of this scale. In particular, the inclusion of a distinct midlander, Wilfred (Maison Kelley) is a brilliantly funny choice in itself, while Samantha Richards and Lucy Aiston as Titty and Tats respectively form a formidable duo and provide the majority of cheeky, troublesome entertainment for the evening.
As with most pieces of theatre, Brass could, and should, lose twenty minutes, but it certainly makes it worth a visit to this beautiful, tiny Southwark Venue.