Writer: Willy Russell
Director: Bob Thomson & Bill Kenwright
Reviwer: Alisha McCracken
Willy Russell’s Blood Brotherstells the tale of twins separated at birth with strong themes of class and superstition.
The superstitious Mrs. Johnson (Lyn Paul) is a single mother to seven children with another on the way, however, she struggles to afford to feed the children she already has. She starts working for the wealthy Mrs. Lyons (Chloe Taylor) which allows her to get back on her feet and start to feel optimistic about her pregnancy. That is, until she is informed that she isn’t expecting one baby, but two. Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Lyons arrive at a deal where each of the women will keep one of the babies from the pregnancy. They swear their deal on the bible and as Mrs. Johnson is due to give birth just before Mrs. Lyons’ husband returns home from business no one ever needs to know what happened. From here a story of class and superstition unfolds as we see just how differently the lives of separated twins Mickey (Alexander Patmore) and Eddie (Joel Benedict) end up.
The large stage at the Empire Theatre allows for the full set to be used for the show which is a truly clever design by Andy Walmsley, allowing several access points for cast and immersing you onto the streets of Liverpool in which the show is set. That being said, the set has become a little tired throughout the years and would benefit from a refresh. The opportunity to see the show with its full set, however, should not be missed as it really allows for the ominous narrator (Robbie Scotcher) to be even more omnipresent and foreboding.
Scotcher gives a good performance as the Narrator giving the character those sinister qualities that audiences have come to expect. As Mrs. Johnstone, Paul gives a believable, easy, and emotive performance. On the other hand, Taylor’s performance as Mrs. Lyons feels a little bit more forced at times and there is not as much depth to the performance when compared to Paul.
Benedict does an excellent job portraying the naïve, softly spoken, yet passionate Eddie and there is an almost tangible connection between him and Patmore from the moment they first meet on stage. Patmore as Mickey is the star of the show for this reviewer. During act one Patmore struggles to find his stride as young Mickey compared to his outstanding and unbelievably emotive performance in act two. Similarly, Danielle Corlass as Linda gives a much stronger performance in the second act as adult Linda. Corlass and Patmore give equally impactful performances during their more emotional scenes. Daniel Taylor gives a strong performance as the hot headed and impulsive Sammy, and he truly helps to engage the audience in the story.
The overall direction from Bob Tomson is simple, captivating, and effective, however, some of the staging feels clunky and forced with props used to emphasise a point without actually being incorporated into the story. A rethink of the use of props would help make it more cohesive with the easy flow of the rest of the show.
The musical direction from Matt Malone and the performances from the small pit band, ensure that the music is equally an important and integral element of the production. With their constant underscoring the action they ensure the atmosphere and emotion of the performances from the company are supported and heightened to its full extent.
Overall, the show, whilst being over 30 years old, still feels current and relevant, especially in our current economic and political climate. It is still as popular now as it was when it first came to the stage due to nature of the storytelling and emotional performances.
Runs until 14 Sept 2019 | Image: Robert Day (Shows previous cast)