Book/Music/Lyrics: Willy Russell
Director: Bob Tomson
Reviewer: John Roberts
At the tender age of 35, Blood Brothers is still gaining instantaneous standing ovations wherever it’s performed and at St Helens Theatre Royal, that acclaim continues. It’s no surprise really when the show’s themes of class, recession, nature vs nurture and depression are still so prevalent and newsworthy. It becomes hard not to connect with at least one angle of the storyline when you see it being lived out all around you.’
Embarking on its Winter tour, the cast welcomes a brand-new Mrs. Johnstone, in a staggeringly emotive performance from Linzi Hateley. The company once again welcomes Robbie Scotcher into the role of the ever looming and omnipresent Narrator and in the titular roles, Sean Jones (Mickey) and Mark Hutchinson (Eddie) play the fate-laden twins separated at birth.
Russell’s musical is an emotional rollercoaster that at one point makes you laugh and then in the next moment find you on the edge of your seat with tears rolling down your face. However, the musical isn’t shy on playing on the stereotypical qualities of the characters and their situations, it paints with broad strokes and musically isn’t the most complicated or sophisticated, especially in the over synthesised orchestrations. The power of Blood Brothers though, comes from the cast’s ability to deliver pitch-perfect storytelling alongside powerful performances and direction that instils a confidence in its simplicity.
Andy Walmsley’s terraced street set, evokes a by-gone era with haunting realism that is given a strong sense of atmosphere courtesy of Nick Richings’ sculptural lighting design. But it is, as mentioned before the performances that really make Blood Brothers the success it is.
Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson have both played the roles of Mickey and Eddie for well over a decade and they certainly show no sign of stopping, and why should they, when they bring such weight to the roles. Jones has a natural ability to clown within the role of Mickey but likewise is able to flip that humour to a level of pathos that is staggering to watch, while Hutchinson certainly manages to convince with the naïve nature of Eddie. Daniel Taylor brings a real gravitas to the role of the troublemaking Sammy, while Scotcher’s Narrator looms with a foreboding sense of dread. Sarah Jane Buckley is certainly growing in confidence in the role of Mrs. Lyons, a role which has seen her feel a little too controlled previously. Danielle Corlass is a strong Linda and certainly makes the role her own in the more dramatic moments in act two and strong support comes from Tim Churchill as Mr. Lyons and Graham Martin in a series of strong cameo roles – his transformation from stern headmaster to worn down comprehensive teacher is first class.
Blood Brothers is certainly a musical that evokes a strong emotional response from almost everyone that watches it. It’s a pleasure to watch the show in such an intimate space as St Helens Theatre Royal where it may be lacking in certain set elements but not in impact. Blood Brothers is a first-class British musical and one hopes it continues to wow audiences up and down the country for another 35 years.
Runs until 15 September 2018 | Image: Contributed