Reviewed by Jenny Seymour
As someone born in Liverpool and raised in Sheffield, I love Blood Brothers. Set in Liverpool and with the opening scene a back drop of back-to-back houses that my mum and dad lived in and the Liverpool night sky showing the beautiful Royal Liver Buildings where my mum and dad met, it has so many memories for me and lots of lines that make me reminisce.
This tale of twins, separated at birth by a mother torn between making ends meet and having 7 mouths to feed, is an emotional tearjerker, but is also thought provoking in the society we find ourselves in today. After running for over 35 years, you would have thought the 80s references would no longer be relevant. However, whilst the “dole queue” in the Miss Jones number may not be a feature of today’s society, with the significant increase in the reliance on foodbanks and an increase in the class divisions within society, it was as relevant as ever! It made me feel incredibly lucky that I do have a safe loving home in which to bring up my kids.
Talking of my kids – I first saw this when I was in my 20s without kids and loved it. Now, I have 3 kids of my own, it had a totally different effect on me. I have often had debates about “nature v nurture”. Do the opportunities our children have shape their future or is it very much an inbuilt personality based on their genetic make-up? Blood Brothers will give you one version of this debate to think about.
It is also a tale of “the grass is always greener” – Mickey, the twin who is left with his siblings and a single mother striving so hard to make ends meet would love to have the opportunities and privileges that his best friend “Eddie” has, being brought up in the big houses by the park. Whereas, Eddie sees his “blood brother” Mickey getting to “play out” with all his mates on the street, with the freedoms he doesn’t have and strives to have friends like that. In the end, it is this envy that seals their fate, but I will leave this for you to find out when you go to see the show! and go to see it you must!
Willy Russell, who wrote Blood Brothers (and who is also famed for other working-class tales of Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita) is from the same place as I am near Liverpool. This musical has been running in the West End now for decades and yet still plays to standing ovations most nights. The emotion that it evokes in the second Act leaves you very little option but to stand and applaud such performances.
Back to this production though, the set and lighting were used so effectively to portray the streets of Liverpool to the local countryside. However, most impressive of all was the cast. They were all cast so well – from Mickey, Sammy and Mrs Johnstone – the Liverpudlian scallies! Mrs Lyons (the woman fraught with superstition and demons for the plot that she had created and had to live with), right through to the entire supporting cast. From milkman to judge, from police officer to public school professor. It was all played so well. If I have to be negative slightly here, it is that I found myself looking at Eddie and Mickey and thinking that they didn’t look the same age or alike in the way that I thought they should as twins. That is not to detract from either of these performances, as they were played well, but I wasn’t sure the casting worked as well in that respect.
As a Scouser, I am often put off by the Scouse accents on stage. Actors often try (and fail so miserably) to perfect our accent. However, it was fabulous to hear such amazing authentic-sounding accents and to see that some of the cast were in fact from Liverpool.
Special mention has to go to Sean Jones’ portrayal of Mickey – a young lad who has no luxuries and becomes a man too soon with his own responsibilities, Linzi Hateley’s performance of Mrs Johnstone and Robbie Scotcher as the narrator of this sad tale. The harmonies that the latter two created throughout the musical were haunting and beautiful.
There were also some great comedy moments – particularly coming from the kids playing out, getting on their horses and cantering around the Liverpool streets. Memories of staying out until your tea was ready and the make-believe games we used to play came flooding back. The dream of being able to buy your clothes from “George Henry Lees” is now a reality for me, but it struck a chord in terms of knowing there are many families out there who buying in John Lewis remains a dream. Again, if I have any negative points to make at all, it is that perhaps the “playing out” scenes are too long. Whilst I appreciate they are there to build up the relationship between Eddie and Mickey as they grow up and how Sammy developed the way he did, it was perhaps going into unnecessary detail, as endearing as it was.
Just a few more days to get your tickets for this production and I recommend you buy your tickets quick – not often that you get to see a West End production of this quality touring!
[Please also note: If you park in the local Q Park car park, remember to claim your 1 hour FREE ticket from one of the members of the theatre staff before you leave.]
A duly deserved standing ovation from its first night audience – not often that you get to see a West End production of this quality touring!
Tickets cost from £19 to £38 (booking fees may apply).
Blood Brothers is at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield from 5-9 February 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000