Writer: Willy Russell
Director: Bob Tomson & Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: Matt Forrest
It’s hard to believe that Blood Brothers just celebrated its 36th year, if anything, it feels older purely because the affection with which it is held. It’s certainly an institution of the theatre circuit and there’s no question why: this is a timeless, heart-breaking tale, of love, class and nature versus nurture that has all the tropes of a Greek tragedy.
The story focusses on a downtrodden, single parent of seven, with another on the way Mrs Johnstone (Linzi Hateley) who gets the unexpected news that she’s not just expecting one, but has twins on the way. Struggling to cope with so many mouths to feed the last thing she needs is two more. A conversation with her financially secure employer Mrs Lyons (Paula Tappenden) reveals that she is unable to have children of her own and thus an arrangement is made to give up one of the twins, a pact that will have dire ramifications for all concerned.
As the twins grow older, the social and economic gulf between them grows wider and despite Mrs Lyons best attempts to keep them apart, fate would play its part bringing the boys together to form an unlikely friendship.
Blood Brother’s can’t half still deliver that punch to the gut, that still hits you no matter how many times you watch it, tackling issues of social inequality, that blighted the country through Thatcherism these issues sadly still affect the country even more so now making this production as relevant as ever.
Despite the weighty subject matter, there is also great deal joy to be had, in part due to the ‘cheeky’ scouse humour that punctures the script, but mainly down to the fantastic performances of Alexander Patmore and Joel Benedict as the separated brothers Mickey and Eddie: we see the two leads play the boys from being seven through to their twenties, filled with childhood innocence and adolescent mischief. It’s their performances that anchor the production supported perfectly by Danielle Corlass, as Linda, their childhood friend.
The production is packed full of strong performances: Hateley is on fine form as the well meaning yet unfortunate Mr Johnstone, giving her so much warmth and humour that you cannot but help to root her. Robbie Scotcher is our guide through this tragic tale playing the parts of the moral compass and the devil himself, prowling and stalking his prey, providing more than enough menace for the role.
Blood Brothers is still the benchmark for weaving comedy, tragedy, politics and social commentary which still manages to enthral, entertain and will still be playing in theatres in another 35 years.
Runs until 13 April 2019 and continues on Tour | Image: Robert Day (of previous cast)