Blood Brothers | Review
The new regional tour of this appealing Willy Russell’s classic Blood Brothers from producers Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson opened last night in Brighton to a full house audience of mixed generations. The show has long been a feature of the school curriculum due to its portrayal of complex human relationships. Also, people love seeing this show more than once, as whilst it’s a musical with strong songs, “Tell Me It’s Not True”, “Marilyn Munroe” , “Shoes Upon the Table”, it also has a great tale to tell of enduring love, personal struggles and fate. From the opening scene the audience is involved when the narrator says “ Have you heard the story of the Johnstone twins ?…….”
The show,” a Liverpudlian folk opera” is about a pair of twins separated at birth and bought up in completely different environments and how fatefully their paths continue to cross in life. Blood Brothers initially opened in 1983 when it won the Laurence Oliver Award for Best New Musical and its revival in 1987 saw over 10,000 consecutive performances in 24 year West End run so the show comes with an excellent pedigree.
In this touring version, we see Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone, the long-suffering cheery mother of the twins. Due to an absent father and poverty, she makes a heart-wrenching pact to give away one of her expected twins to her barren employer, Mrs Lyons (played another veteran of the role Paula Tappenden) hoping she can stay around to watch him grow. Lyn Paul , a member of the New Seekers pop group, first undertook this role in 1997 and has reprised the character of Mrs Johnstone regularly over the last 20 years. Whilst at the age of 70, on her final tour with the show, you would think she was perhaps too old for the role’s demands, however her emotional portrayal and energy was outstanding and her voice and delivery still spot on . The audience were in raptures at her performance.
Robbie Scotcher plays the narrator in this version. His presence on stage is mesmerising as he takes centre stage to point out to the audience what is happening in the lives of the key characters . His role is helped by the brilliant writing of Scouser Willy Russell which he delivers superbly and, despite being set in 1950s-60’s , the musical has so many lines that resonate with the struggles of society even in this day and age.
The twins, Mickey ( played by Alexander Patmore) and Eddie (played by Joel Benedict) have complex roles to deliver from being 7 years old to grown men and they were excellent. Its always hard to watch adults playing silly children on stage but this rendition captured the innocence of youth and the fun of being young and carefree in the deprived areas of Liverpool in the 50s. The whole cast were enthusiastic and talented which made the performance believable and endearing.
So even if you have seen Blood Brothers before, I encourage you to attend this new touring production which has a raw edge and an outstanding cast. Don’t forget your tissues though their performances did not leave a dry eye in the House and standing ovations.
Reviewer: Sandra Jenkins