Blood Brothers

As I start writing this review with a teary eye, it’s not hard to see why Blood Brothers still commands a place on stage.  Willy Russell created this masterpiece of a show back in 1981 as a school play, first performed in his hometown of Liverpool.  It has gone on to successful runs in the West End aswell as many touring productions over the years drawing audiences into this rollercoaster of raw emotion.

As the Narrator (Richard Munday) utters the first line “Have you heard the story of the Johnstone twins……” the show starts with a flashback to the end, preparing you of what’s to come.  The show instantly changes pace though as we are thrown straight into the heart of the Johnstone family headed up by Niki Colwell Evans, playing the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone and a rendition of the fabulous ‘Marilyn Monroe’.  Niki is no stranger to this role having portrayed the character in the West End previously and it’s clear to see that she releases every inch of emotion throughout the show with it’s ups and downs.  Her voice is so pure, and you hang on every word.

The story of the Blood Brothers centres around Mrs Johnston (Niki Colwell Evans) giving away one of her new-born twins to Mrs Lyons (Paula Tappenden), her employer who is desperate to have a child.  One twin is brought up in an upper-class family, with the other being brought up by Mrs Johnstone who already has multiple children and lives on the breadline. Fast forward a few years and the twins meet, become best friends, all without realising their special bond.  Mrs Lyons has a breakdown as she wants her son Eddie (Jay Morley) to have nothing to do with Mickey Johnstone (Sean Jones).

Jones and Morley have great stage presence in both their performances as the child versions of Mickey and Eddie, but also bring that emotion later into their lives as adults.  Jones in particular is quite frankly the embodiment of perfection in this role.  He has been playing the role of Mickey for many years and it’s not my first time seeing him, but his performance just seems to get better and better.  He is a complete delight in the funnier moments and devastatingly good in the darker moments.  Morley, as the ‘posh’ Eddie Lyons displays the innocence of a child well, but also demonstrates warmth towards Linda (Carly Burns), the childhood friend who becomes a friend in later life.

Mickey, Eddie and Linda spend time together throughout their childhood and into adult life.  It is clear that Eddie loves Linda, however he pushes Mickey into asking her out. The pair end up married with a baby on the way much to Eddie’s surprise when he returns from University.  Mickey loses his job and spirals into a state of depression relying on tablets.  It is during these moments that Jones really does shine, the angst and despair is on full show for all to see.  He is made aware that Eddie and Linda are having an affair (which was a lie bought on by Mrs Lyons) and he heads off to seek revenge with deadly consequences. 

It is the closing scene that makes you sob into your bag of wine gums! As the show opens with both characters dead, it’s no surprise what will unfold.  The suspense of the whole scene really has you gripped and sitting on the edge of your seat.  The inevitable happens and the scream from Linda takes you to a whole new level of emotion.  Queue the iconic song ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ performed faultlessly by Niki Colwell Evans and most of the audience are sniffling and wiping away tears, me very much included.

There are many lighter moments in this musical and characters that will have you smiling, including Timothy Lucas as Mickey’s older brother Sammy and Nick Wilkes who takes on multiple roles as the Policeman and Teacher.  The whole ensemble cast work extremely hard throughout moving scenery around and certainly bringing a sense of fun during ‘Kids Game’.

This show holds a special place in my heart, and I will always take the time to see it when it tours.  If you’ve never seen this show, please pay it a visit.  As well as the raw emotion, the show is heart-warming, comical and one definitely not to miss.

This production was reviewed at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on the 13th September 2022 where it runs until the 17th September 2022. Tickets available here: https://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/blood-brothers-2/

 

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