Theatre Review: Blood Brothers, St. Helens Theatre Royal, St. Helens

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Image Source: The Guide Liverpool

Written By: Lauren Bell

Format: Musical
Genre: Comedy Drama
Date: September 11 2018
Location: St. Helens Theatre Royal, St. Helens

Blood Brothers is a musical that Liverpool can call its own. Willy Russell first wrote Blood Brothers as a short play in 1981, which premiered in a comprehensive school in Fazakerley, Liverpool, before embarking on a school’s tour around the city. A year later, Russell had developed the show into a full-scale musical, and it opened at the Liverpool Playhouse to rave reviews. It had a transfer to the West End, where tickets sales weren’t as great. After seeing it at the Liverpool Playhouse, Bill Kenwright fell in love with the show, and a year or two later he came onboard to help make the show into the success it is today.

Blood Brothers has been produced around the world for over 34 years now, it is still bringing audiences to their feet each night, and it was no different in St. Helens.

Blood Brothers is a nature or nurture story, centering around twins Mickey and Eddie, who are separated at birth. Mickey stays with his biological mother, living in a poor family, and Eddie is taken by Mrs Lyons into a wealthy family. Their opposite lifestyles take the twins to each end of the social and class spectrums; one becoming a councillor, and the other unemployed and spending some time in prison. After meeting each other at the age of seven, the boys learn that they were born on the same day, and call each other ‘blood brothers’. Staying in contact for many years, they slowly realise the differences in their upbringings. They fall in love with the same girl they have known since children, and it causes a rift in their friendship, which tragically leads to the death of both brothers.

The show starts with the final scene of the show; the two boys dead, and being carried off on stretchers. Straight away as an audience we are drawn in, and those who might not have seen the show before are immediately taken by the dramatics of the first scene. The narrator (Robbie Scotcher) then begins to introduce us to the story of the Johnstone twins. The narrator plays a key part in this show; I would go as far as saying that he actually plays the lead role, and without him the show would be incomplete. Narrating the story throughout in rhyme, he is a constant source of information within each scene, and doubled fantastically as a stage-hand! Scotcher is a very strong presence throughout, and keeps the audience’s attention, even when scenes are slightly less exciting. Scotcher certainly helps carry this show, and is the perfect sinister character.

Seeing adults play children can sometimes be a bit awkward and sometimes even cringe-worthy, but Blood Brothers always seems to play an exception to this. This cast have got the characters of the children down to a tee, right down to their mannerisms and movements. The first meeting between Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Mark Hutchinson) is a brilliant, comedic scene and had all the audience in stitches. Similarly, Mickey’s monologue (Our Sammy) also impressed the audience, especially the many schools groups who are obviously studying it for GCSE work! Jones and Hutchinson play their characters brilliantly throughout. Jones really embodies Mickey’s persona, and we can see completely the change from his young boyish behaviour to his complete meltdown and depression as an adult. Seeing this show over ten years ago when I was a teenager, I never fully understood the change in Mickey’s character; however, now I could completely appreciate how much he changes, and Jones’ performance really helped with this. Mark Hutchinson is great as Eddie, and the relationship between both Hutchinson and Jones is apparent on stage.

The three female leads of the show – Mrs Johnstone (Linzi Hateley), Mrs Lyons (Sarah Jane Buckley) and Linda (Danielle Corlass) – are played by three very strong women, obviously very well-trained and seasoned in musical theatre. Their voices were as strong as their characterisations, especially Danielle Corlass, who takes Linda from a confident seven-year-old to a heartbroken wife to Mickey. Throughout the show, there was not one wrong note, tripped line or any fault from any of the cast.

Although only a small cast, who double up as many other parts, as a whole they are very strong throughout, all helping with scenery too. Special mention should be given for this performance to Amy-Jane Ollies, who seemed to be playing every other female part in the absence of Alison Crawford. Amy-Jane had many costume and hair changes, playing lots of parts throughout the show, though we always knew she was a different role each time, and not her initial role as Donna-Marie.

The set for the show is a very simple one, with only one backdrop change, and one slight change of decoration during the interval as we change from city to countryside. This is actually perfect for the show, and I feel that with more going on, it would take away from the action.

As a whole, I thought this show was brilliant, and with a full house who jumped straight to their feet as soon as the final note of Tell Me It’s Not True hit, it was clear that every other audience member felt the same. With many Liverpudlians in the audience, it hits home for a lot of people here, and though the accents may have sometimes been a little bit dodgy, we definitely feel a sense of patriotism at seeing this show. One thing hit home for me seeing this show, and it is one of the closing lines of the narrators, was when he mentions about class. It is true that people are seen differently because of their class, because of their family, or where they were brought up? But true to the story, is it nature or is it nurture? Are some people simply born into the wrong family? It certainly had me thinking!

Overall Rating: 10/10 – Perfect