UK Theatre Award winning Brass brings National Youth Theatre to Hackney Empire

Brass (Copywright: National Youth Theatre)

Brass (Copywright: National Youth Theatre) - Credit: Archant

The National Youth Theatre’s production Brass at the Hackney Empire, tells of a brass band who sign up, and the women they leave behind.

When men signed up to fight in the first world war, it was the women who remained at home making sure that the country didn’t grind to a halt.

The National Youth Theatre’s production Brass, taking place at the Hackney Empire, tells the tale of a brass band who join the army together.

While they fight on the front, their wives, girlfriends and sisters take on work in the local munitions factory while learning to play the instruments they left behind to victoriously serenade them when they return.

“What’s incredibly interesting about Brass is that it deals with a lot of issues, but really shows the war through the eyes of the women,” says the show’s creator Benjamin Till.

“For the first time, they were earning, they could spend their money how they wanted and had a new level of independence.

“In many ways they were the first feminists, and the main character Eliza is a suffragette who works to prove her worth.”

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Originally Brass was performed in Leeds in 2014 with the show only having a five night run. Despite this, the performance won the UK Theatre Award, something that Till describes as being “very unexpected”. In 2013, the award had gone to Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda written by Tim Minchin and in 2015 it was won by Gypsy starring Imelda Staunton.

“Winning was very unexpected, particularly as we only had a five night run. I think we’re the first youth company to have won the award so it was very special.”

Yet Brass is not solely about the women of the war, also raising social concerns from the soldiers within the trenches.

“On the men’s side of things, we also explore the different reasons men chose to sign up “ says Till.

“There’s a story of a gay soldier who joins up to run from his feelings but actually falls in love in the trenches.

“He only explores these feeling in the moment before he goes over the top.”

This will be the first time that Brass is performed in London, which will take place at the Hackney Empire on August 26 and 27 a venue that Till describes as “very special”.

“It is such a big venue and we have such a large cast and music performers.

“These are some of the best young actors from across the country and they’ve come in for technical rehearsals and they are just overwhelmed by the venue. It is so special to see.”

Brass is showing at the Hackney Empire on August 26 and 27.