Have you ever wondered how much your upbringing has affected you? How different life would be if you had been raised by a different family, in completely different circumstances? Willy Russell addresses these questions in his legendary musical Blood Brothers, which tells the captivating tale of two twins, separated at birth and raised on opposite sides of the tracks.
Whilst neither of us had seen the show before, our brief background knowledge of the story had us both anticipating the highly acclaimed musical, which has been in the theatre for over three decades. Taking our seats in the packed theatre, we were immediately impressed as the set came to view, depicting a starry, city backdrop and housing structures along the side, which remained on stage for the entire show. The set was well utilised throughout the entire production, as there were many doors and passages that lead the actors on and off the stage and as different scenes were acted out, new back drops and props were brought on, often in comical situations, gaining a large reaction from the audience.
As the show opened, it was clear to us why the musical is so loved by the public. We are introduced to heart warming and comical characters such as the lead character Mrs Johnstone, (played by the magnificent Maureen Nolan) who is an endearing, yet slightly irresponsible, newly single mother of seven children. At the beginning of the show, Mrs Johnstone is already concerned that her children may be taken from her by social services, before finding out that she is expecting twins. A solution to her problem comes in the form of Mrs Lyons, played by Kate Jarman, who cannot have children of her own, and is therefore willing to take one of the twins off Mrs Johnston’s hands and raise him as her own. However as the show proceeds, we learn how this decision inevitably leads to regret, bitterness and tragedy.
However whilst this portrays the musical in a rather depressing light, the first act is filled with comical humour and childish nostalgia, as we see the twin brothers Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Joel Benedict) first meet and form an instant, unbreakable friendship at the age of seven. Spitting competitions, fake gun fights and brilliantly timed exclamations of love left us and the audience in hysterics. The songs throughout the show also help lift the mood, particularly Maureen Nolan’s performance of ‘Marilyn Monroe’, as her incredible voice left us dancing in our seats.
Sean Jones and Joel Benedict must both be credited for their excellent acting, as they skilfully manage to play the parts of Mickey and Eddie at different stages of their lives; as mischievous seven year olds, curious and girl obsessed 15 year olds and then grown men, dealing with the difficulties of life. Whilst it may not seem possible that grown men could play the parts of young children, the brilliant costumes, high pitch voices and incredible acting convinced us both that it was indeed two seven year olds on stage before us.
However whilst Blood Brothers is indeed, at times, full of humour, there is still a consistent reminder of its tragic ending. This is because of the clever use of a Narrator, played by Kristofer Harding, who acts as the devils voice, reminding the audience of the decision made by both women at the beginning of the Musical, and how this decision will inevitably lead to tragedy. His beautiful renditions of ‘Shoes Upon The Table’ at multiple times throughout the production left no doubt in our minds that there would be no happy ending to this tale.
As the Musical drew to a close, we were left on the edge of our seats, anticipating what was to come next, and wondering how the captivating tale would possibly conclude. The standing ovation at the end of the night was well deserved and it appeared that there was not a single dry eye in the room. Blood Brothers reduced us both to laughter and tears throughout the show, and it will no doubt be a night and performance we will never forget.
Blood Brothers is running until 25th October.
By Marya Norat and Georgia Brown