The Glee Club, Library Theatre, Manchester

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The Independent Culture

I would guess that there's been neither much glee nor singing at the Labour Party Conference, which has brought the centre of Manchester to a virtual standstill.

A kind of Full Monty meets Brassed Off, it explores the complex characters and disintegrating lives of six miners in 1962. Their often vulgar exchanges between rehearsals for a gala concert in the working men's club, expose a surprising number of raw nerves and naked truths.

Cameron, surely drawing on his South Yorkshire mining background, captures the ballsy camaraderie of the four middle-aged singing miners, their naive, younger workmate Colin, whose hopes are pinned on the visiting talent spotter, and the piano-playing engineer Phil, still in thrall to his mother. But beneath the brash joviality there's a rich seam of emotional complexities.

Roger Haines's robust production underlines the working men's interdependence. The singing, with Andrew Whitehead as Phil the adroit musical director, is pretty good, especially Robert Emms's light tenor.

After a sprawling and somewhat laborious first half, the play shifts several gears as the final 40 minutes crams in abortion, homosexuality, blackmail, marriage breakdown, abandoned children, corrupt managers and betrayal.

As dialogue coach, Sally Hague has done a great job even if some of the asides are baffling. The young man next to me felt he was watching a piece of foreign culture. He was, I suppose, in that The Glee Club offers a glimpse of a past which is already alien, even shocking, history.

To 18 October (0161-236 7110)

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