Having heard rave reviews of Blood Brothers from my aunt a few years ago, I jumped at the chance to see the show for myself and was lucky enough to be able to review it. Knowing only a very basic plot line, this adaptation of the 1983 musical lived up to expectation by putting on a magnificent performance.
Written by playwright Willy Russell, the story revolves around twins Mickey and Eddie. Their mother, Mrs Johnstone, can barely afford to raise another child nevertheless two, therefore she agrees to secretly give one child to the woman whose house she cleans for a living. The play follows the lives of the two families and sees the boys’ differing journeys as one is raised in poverty and the other wealth. Unfortunately they both fall in love with the same person, causing a rift and ultimately leading to their tragedy.
“This authoritative tone reflected the gravity for the two mothers”
The set design instantly appeared cosmic with the starry night sky lighting the stage. The narrator, played by actor Robbie Scotcher, set the tone for the duration of the show. He wore a dark suit creating a shadow-like presence and projected his voice in a commanding way. This authoritative tone reflected the gravity for the two mothers and the narrator was on stage almost all the time which helped reflect the fact that their terrible secret is never far away. It follows them around no matter where the two families choose to move.
“The notion of mourning and doom remains strong”
It was interesting to see that the director Bob Tomson broke the fourth wall by using Scotcher as a character as well, evident when he was asked by Linda to take a photograph of the three friends, which I have not seen in other shows. Another aspect that I found particularly noteworthy was the foreshadowing of the brothers’ deaths at the beginning. Although some people may forget this at the play progresses, the notion of mourning and doom remains strong.
The children were played by adults which at first I found bizarre however it soon became quite normal and added an element of comedy in seeing adults have tantrums and such. Andy Walmsley, the designer, used costume successfully to represent their age trajectory. For example, it was clear to see the move to adolescents as the colours were less primary and bright, hemlines were shorter, and hairstyles more refined. In addition, the use of clothing also helped highlight the different in socio-economic backgrounds with Eddie’s clothing being tailored and business-like whilst Mickey’s were torn and dirty.
“The lighting, music and set design were all of high standard”
The lighting, music and set design were all of high standard, with the live pianist receiving his own standing ovation and applause. As a musical, the actors all sang their parts very well but I feel that the two mothers, played by Linzi Hateley and Sarah Jane Buckley, stole the show equally with their amazing vocals. My personal favourite number that Hateley sang was titled ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and was repeated three times.
“Props and hand gestures were used constructively to enhance the play’s themes of mental health issues, death, and class divide”
Props and hand gestures were used constructively to enhance the play’s themes of mental health issues, death, and class divide. Toy guns were used by children which added irony as it was what killed them eventually. The gestures were also symbolic, such as through the blood pact the two boys make in a vow of friendship which comes full circle at the end when the birth mother puts Eddie’s limp hand on Mickey’s as a sign of brotherhood and connection.
“A remarkable portrayal of the sense of disunity and conflict between the classes”
Lastly, the clear divide between rich or poor and familial love was potent, making the tone melancholic. It was a remarkable portrayal of the sense of disunity and conflict between the classes. The resonance it had was just as much important in today’s society than it was when it first premiered in 1983 given the political climate and the divide that social classes have, especially following Brexit.
The only fault I found was that the washing line at one point fell down unintentionally causing the narrator to have to hold it up until the scene ended. The final scene was climatic and even made the audience jump out of our skins! A great adrenaline-inducing end to a memorable performance.
Featured Image courtesy of Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Official Facebook Page.