Book, Music and Lyrics: Willy Russell
Directors: Bob Thomson and Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: Hannah Powell
With our current political climate becoming heated by Brexit and an ever-growing divide between those at the top and those living on the bread line, now seems the perfect time to revive such a play that displays what those in desperate need can be forced into doing. Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is such a play, with perfect comedic timing intertwined with hard-hitting truths and a heart-wrenching ending.
Set throughout the 1950s and 60s, the story is a contemporary twist on the nature vs nurture debate, revolving around twins Mickey and Edward who are separated at birth following a deal made by their mothers. Edward, taken from his birth mother, grows up in a world where he wants for nothing and money is no object, the opposite to his brother who faces his possessions being taken away when payments cannot be made. The twins predictably meet and make a pact to be blood brothers, forever to always have each other’s back; however, through events clouded in envy, societal bias and lovers’ rage it appears certain that our twins will not get the happy ending.
Cast as Mrs Johnstone, the matriarch of the Johnstone family, is Lyn Paul, reprising her debut role from 1997 in what is her farewell tour. Opposite Paul as her nemesis, Mrs Lyons, is Chloe Taylor. While these fantastically talented women cannot be faulted for their powerfully emotive voices, the performance does feel slightly over-rehearsed as lines become anticipated, maybe because Paul has performed this role enough times to be able to recite them in her sleep. There is also the matter of the two powerful female characters appearing too aged early on in the play whether by the makeup or costume decisions.
On a lighter note, the chemistry between Mickey (Alexander Patmore) and Edward (Joel Benedict) is electric, demonstrating the deep bond the two brothers share even as early on as their first meeting at the age of seven (nearly eight). Patmore does a fantastic job of showing Mickey’s descent into depression and unadulterated rage towards the end of the play. Benedict, on the other hand, maintains this curious childlike innocence quality throughout really signifying Edward’s ignorance of the Johnstone’s financial struggle.
Praise must also be given especially to Danielle Corlass playing Linda. Her comedic timing is impeccable and her teenage girl mannerisms are spot on, succeeding in making Mickey sweat whenever she’s around. Her guttural wail at the end of the play shall most definitely stay with audiences afterwards purely for the amount of emotion she displays in this one moment.
Lighting and sound superbly accompany the writing and set design transporting us effortlessly to the time period and locations. An incredible job is done of indicating different moods and the foreshadowing of events.
Overall, it is a fantastically written play which is very much of its time. Audiences shall leave the theatre with tears in their eyes but smiles on their faces to have experienced something so moving. Maybe all it needs is some tweaking and revitalisation to make it pop once again.
Runs until: 12 October 2019 and on tour Image: Robert Day (shows previous cast)