Review: Blood Brothers
Venue: Grand Opera House, September 30
Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers is now in its 28th year but many of the audience at the Grand Opera House were, judging by their reactions, seeing it for the first time – and as usual it got a standing ovation.
I’ve seen it several times yet once again it proved absorbing. Subtle changes to the text, excellent lighting, a new backdrop of the Liverpudlian skyline and a denouement in slow motion stood out.
This is not a play with songs but almost a modern opera, the music being integral to the story, and all the cast had powerful voices and sang with real passion.
The lead female role of Mrs Johnstone is always played by a singer. This time it was Maureen Nolan, following on from her sisters Linda, Denise and the late Bernadette, as well as Barbara Dickson, Kiki Dee and Petula Clark.
Why does the story of identical twins, Mickey and Edward, separated at birth, endure? Ultimately it is a tragedy yet is filled with hilarious comedy, and every human emotion is here – love, grief, anger, jealousy, loyalty and deep friendship.
The tale spans a 20 year period, and the boys, played so well by Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson, age from seven through teenage years to adulthood.
On the surface it’s the story of how separated twins meet again and are drawn to each other, becoming “blood brothers” yet not knowing their real identity until the day they die; the story of two men who love the same woman which ultimately leads to their cruel fate.
Yet on a deeper level it’s about nurture versus nature, poverty and unemployment contrasted with wealth and freedom, superstition and religion, mental illness and urban violence.
It’s a modern Greek tragedy with the Narrator (as the Chorus), played brilliantly by Warwick Evans, appearing throughout to underline how a decision made in haste ultimately leads to downfall.
Unlike most of Willy Russell’s plays, this has never been filmed, probably because it works best on stage in a confined space. A new generation shared the experience on Monday night but there were also those who were seeing it for the second, third or fourth time and still being moved.
If you haven’t seen it, get tickets!
- Blood Brothers is at the Grand Opera House until Saturday, October 5. Performances start at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm
- For more information and tickets go to the theatre website
- For more theatre stories, go here