Genre: Comedy Drama
Writer: Willy Russell
Cast: Lyn Paul, Daniel Taylor, Joel Benedict, Robert Scotcher, Alexander Patmore, Chloe Taylor, Danielle Corlass, Tim Churchill, Graham Martin, Gemma Broderick, Shaun McCourt, Connor Bannister, Hannah Barr & Graeme Kinniburgh
Review Date: September 4 2019
Performances: September 3 2019-September 14 2019, 7.30pm incl. 2.30pm matinees
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Age Rating: 12+
Blood Brothers once again graces Liverpool, and in particular the Empire Theatre stage. This legendary, home-grown play never fails to provide a lasting impact, and once again it had the audience captivated throughout, delivering the absolute gold standard of theatre performance. This current run has further significance due to it being the farewell tour for Lyn Paul, who has made the role of Mrs Johnstone her own through show-stealing acting and singing for more than 20 years.
In front of the fantastic orchestra directed by Matt Malone, the opening scene actually gives us a spoiler of the finale (which I won’t mention here), but this is far from a negative, as it only adds to the uniqueness of this production. By starting off at the end point, the narrator (Robbie Scotcher, who is both friendly and intimidating in his storytelling) is able to explain how we got to this stage, starting at the very beginning where a pregnant-with-twins Mrs Johnstone, whose husband had just abandoned her with them having already had several kids. Realising that she would struggle even more, Mrs Johnstone strikes a deal with Mrs Lyons (Chloe Taylor), who is unable to have children, to take on one of her twins after the birth, with even her husband (Tim Churchill) unaware of the situation. It seems an ideal solution – at first.
Over time, the relationship is damaged between Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons to the point where their once-strong friendship becomes almost a hatred, all due to the circumstances of the latter taking on one of the twins. Speaking of which, those twins (Mickey, played by Alexander Patmore, and Eddie, played by Joel Benedict) soon manage to meet up at a young age, though at that point neither are aware that they are actually related by birth. They end up becoming best friends (“Blood Brothers”), but their bond is damaged by the forced house-move relating to the ongoing problems between Johnstone and Lyons. Mickie and Eddie manage to find each other again before the mothers intervene once again, and throughout their lives, they continuously reunite. But over time, their life paths alternate to the point where their own friendship is damaged more and more, ultimately resulting in the climax foreshadowed at the beginning.
The story-telling here is spot-on; you are introduced to the characters and brought into their simple, happy-go-lucky lives with such authenticity and humour that it only makes the grim reality of their adult lives that much harder to accept. The problems encountered by the central characters is so true-to-life, and the acting is so realistic, that many in the audience were in tears even before the final dramatic moments. As noted, though, there is plenty of comedy to be found in the early and middle points of the show, which elicit some truly laugh-out-loud moments for the crowd. It isn’t unusual for a show to provide both humour and emotion, but it is rare for a production to achieve both elements to such a high degree. This really is a show where you are belly-laughing in the first hour and crying the next.
It is the interplay between Mickey and Eddie which leads to many of the laughs, partly because of their naivety that, whilst comical, mirrors the childish logic that kids would use to explain certain situations, as well as developing their own personalities to become lovable even while creating havoc. All of the cast perform extremely well, living up to the standards set by past Blood Brothers tours. But as noted earlier, it is Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone who is the standout performer, with relatable humour, spine-curling emotion and outstanding singing. She is such a versatile and experienced actress, throwing herself into every scene and situation to the absolute nth degree. I don’t know how Blood Brothers will be the same after this current tour with Lyn bowing out, but she has set such a high bar that it was simply a joy to experience her performance one more time.
Simply put, Blood Brothers is the best play that you could possibly see. The story-telling is spot-on, the acting is exceptional, the humour is well-crafted and the drama is incredibly heavy. If we had to make a list of 1,000 shows ranking them from best onwards, Blood Brothers is comfortably at #1, probably the greatest show that you could see, especially in its hometown of Liverpool. You have to see this during its current run, especially while Lyn Paul remains on the cast.
Target Audience: Adults Aged 30-65
Content: 3/5 – Some Strong Language, Moderate Violence
Overall Rating: 10/10 – Perfect
Blood Brothers runs at the Empire Theatre until Saturday September 14. To buy tickets, click here or call 0844 871 3017.