Blood Brothers – Review

Blood Brothers – Ipswich Regent

Reviewer: Hayley Clapperton

Willy Russell’s wrote a book with a story, adapted it to a musical which has toured around the world and been on stage for over 35 years and is still going! It’s a stalwart of the theatre.

It is a great, watchable story and explores the enduring question of nature vs nurture.

Mrs Johnstone finds herself single and pregnant with twins, she already has seven kids and the bailiffs are at the door demanding money. Her new cleaning job at a nearby posh residence for Mrs Lyons is going well, until it transpires Mrs Lyons cannot have children and is desperate for one. After heartbreakingly agreeing to their secret deal, Mrs Johnstone allows Mrs Lyons to choose a baby to bring up as her own.

One child Mickey, is brought up in poverty with his siblings, a hard life but filled with love. The other child Eddie, is brought up with the best of everything and yet is very lonely. They accidently first meet when they are seven years old and instantly become friends. They swear to be blood brothers – they bleed and shake on it.

Although they lose touch for a few years, they reconnect as teenagers and the musical is about each of their stories as they grow up through to adulthood and the dramas that enfold. They only find out they are twins on the day they die tragically.

There are lots of scenes where we see Mickey & Eddie as children and teenagers and the adult actors are playing these parts, which works well. It allows the actors to explore their own abilities and bring in funny moments. It better keeps the consistency of the story, I think bringing in child actors would not have worked, and seeing the actors play different ages was great fun as they embraced it so well.

The musical opens at the end of the story where the Narrator tells the audience, this is the story of the Johnstone twins… and then it goes to the where it all started which is in Liverpool in the late 50s. The Narrator who is on stage much of the time, is there adding narrative to move the story along or being a conscious thought.

Yes it is a musical, but not every song is full length, sometimes there are just a few lines which are sung – this is a great format as it is more fitting for the story making it a play with music and musical lines. You don’t get that pause while the play stops and there is a big full song before carrying on with the story. The musical pieces slide in and out smoothly and graciously without disturbing the flow. Plus the music is great! There is a live band and the songs and musical pieces are brilliant.

All the actors are fabulous and really bring the emotion out to the audience, they are true to the Liverpudlian accents which gives the play more credibility and the audience is totally engaged and connected.

It’s a great show, a deep story line, superb music and wonderful performances and you can see why people see this show more than once.

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