Book, Music and Lyrics: Willy Russell
Director: Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: Steve Davies
Who doesn’t know the story of the Johnstone twins? Well for the uninitiated it’s the tale of a mother who hands over one of her new born twins to a woman who can’t have children. It’s also the story of two boys who become friends despite their different class backgrounds and how one is financially, educationally and socially successful while the other continues down the road that has been well-worn by his family and ends up on the dole, in prison and dependant on prescription drugs. We know how the story is going to end. Even if it wasn’t presented to us in tableau in the opening minutes of the production.
Mickey is a truly fantastic character for any actor to display their talent. And what talent there is on display from Sean Jones. Both he and Eddie (played by Joel Benedict) portray their rôles from the age of seven through to their adult lives. The contrast in Jones’s portrayals of the energetic, enthusiastic child through to awkward teenager and ultimately to the faltering, drained and docile adult is exceptional.
Marti Pellow plays the Narrator well. An ever present onlooker, a powerfully strong image commenting on the action, but Pellow’s Liverpudlian accent let him down and it detracted from the strength that he was otherwise displaying.
Maureen Nolan is the fourth of the Nolan family to play the rôle of Mrs Johnstone. Her programme notes say that she considers it an honour and privilege to have played the part for so long. When an actor throws herself into the rôle the way that Nolan does, not holding back on any emotion it’s little surprise that she is such a hit with audiences.
Praise is also due to the rest of the cast who play numerous rôles throughout the proceedings but particular mention to Kate Jarman as Mrs Lyons and Danielle Corlass as Linda for their faultless performances.
Blood Brothers is celebrating it’s 29th anniversary yet the audience was a mixed bag of students, seeing the production for the first time alongside regular theatregoers revisiting the tale for maybe the third or fourth (or more) time. The story captures the audience instantly. The characters are warm, real and played with heart by an outstanding cast.
The narrative is hilarious, heart-wrenching and moving. And the music, especially the ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ ending cannot fail to have an audience leaping to their feet – and probably wiping away a tear. It’s little wonder then that this musical is continuing to win new hearts as the tour continues around the UK.
On a national tour but running at this venue until 14th March 2015 | Photo: Keith Patterson