Newest Review: ... other as two new pins Of one womb born, on the self same day How one was kept and one given away?" Blood Brothers is a very power... more
Member Name: deanparkr0
Date: 02/01/05, updated on 11/02/05 (27022 review reads)
Advantages: Strong Cast, Effective use of tension, Well Organised
Disadvantages: Length, Some ideas not fully explored, Repetitive at times.
Blood Brothers, the Society of West End Theatres has awarded a play written by Willy Russell and directed by Bob Thomson ‘The greatest musical of the decade.’
After seeing Blood Brothers at the Phoenix Theatre, I must agree that it is one of the most streamlined performances I have seen in the past. The play Blood Brothers is set in Liverpool, which interestingly was also the birthplace of the writer Willy Russell who was born just outside Liverpool. In this essay, I will be writing about the effect of and use of dramatic tension in the play. I will also be reviewing the plays general strengths and weaknesses. I will attempt to streamline the review with a degree of professionalism and fairness.
The play written by Willy Russell is set In Liverpool and revolves around Eddie and Mickey (Johnston) as they become separated by the actions of Mrs Lyons who bribes the real mother Mrs Johnston to hand over one of her twins for money and for beneficial reasons, claiming that she cannot support all her many children on her current income. She also proposes that the child would have a better life with her and her husband. The reminder of the play Blood Brothers shows the differences in lifestyle the two boys live, almost like the difference of Black and White. As the play goes on this opposite relationship is changed and the similarities of the two are made clearer. Blood Brothers also attempt to show the large gap in society between the first class and the working class people, showing a great deal of status differences. We could see this by the language used by Mrs Lyons, the props used on stage and the characters appearance. This was especially noticeable between Eddie and Mickey. Other characters in the play include Mr Lyons and Linda who is a friend of the two brothers. Both these character take a supporting role. Linda, takes an increased role later in the play where she attracts the attention of both Mickey and Eddie, creating a complex idea of expressed love from Eddie and Mickey. She finally created the large conflict between the two Blood Brothers nearer the end of the play. One other mentionable character was the Narrator. The Narrator is a mystified character who’s purpose of narration is not entirely clear. Throughout Blood Brothers the narrator continually reminds Mrs Lyons and Mrs Johnston that the arrangements will not work out. More precisely his words read,
“There’s no use clutching at your rosary,
The devil’s in the garden and he can see
Deep inside; he can touch your bones
Not he won’t, no he’s never going to let you alone.
You can run you can hide but he’ll always find you
Wherever you are he’s just behind you.
When he rings at the chimes then he knows you’re in.
No you wont, no you’ll never get away from him,
No you wont, no you’ll never get away from him.”
An adaptation was made in this speech by the Phoenix theatre where the Narrator appends “The Devil’s got your number.” Into the speech, replacing ‘the chimes’.
The idea of the narrator, I think is to give a continued sense of inevitability of the outcome of the play- that it can never end well as intended and that it is just a mater of time. This narration used, I thought was most effective. It added a great deal of eerie atmosphere to the play, which was needed at times to keep the play streamlined. This Narration also added a large degree of tension and mystery to the audience, which I thought, kept the play more interesting throughout; this narration was indeed a strength of Blood Brothers.
Blood Brothers made use of effective lighting and setting throughout. The setting transitions were well thought out and occurred in-frequently, which helped to keep the play easier to follow. The use of props was somewhat conservative, where the same props on-stage were used for various different tasks and proposes. This helped the audience to keep focus on the other characters rather than investigating any new items on stage. This also helped to keep the scene transition rate low. The intermission timing was appropriate- it also allowed the grew to give the set an overhaul, to emphasis the new area and setting. Music was very repetitive, and was unusually loud. Music was mixed with a high amount of treble, which assaulted the ears of the audience at times. This high treble needed to be lower as some of the middle was washed out. Blood Brothers featured a familiar beat throughout. One noticeable beat was the one just after Mrs Johnston would say “Like Marilyn Monroe.” This beat was most effective and gave a good upbeat to the soundtrack and the events happening on stage. This beat was even given a mellow mix at one time when its use was not intended to give an upbeat. This timed mellow mix helped create the idea of sadness to the audience and was well thought out. There was a variety of Songs, some were a little repetitive like Mrs Johnston’s ‘We would go dancing’. While these were entertaining at first, the continued use of the format let the singing side down a little. The Narrator’s song was always well sung with great impact and precision; though at times hard to follow because of the loudness of the music. The use of lighting in the songs added the effect, if under-used in others.
Blood Brothers featured many uses of Dramatic Tension including, Tension of the task, relationship, mystery and surprise. Blood Brothers features a nice mix of all these Tension types. First, let us discuss the Tension of the Task. To define Tension of the task, it is the problem of the task, which characters must complete, achieved by completing the task or not. The best examples of Tension of the Task in Blood Brothers include:
• Mrs Lyons trying to convince Mrs Johnston to hand over the baby. (Using a will she / wont she type of format)
• Eddie sneaking out of his house. (Will I / Wont I / What if…)
• Mickey wanting to follow Eddie to his new location and to move away from his existing location.
Tension of this type was first established between Mrs Johnston and Mrs Lyons. Mrs Lyons wanted to have one of the twins for her own. She was in clear desperation to achieve this goal and the actress achieved tension by increased use of facial body language and change in voice. These scenes were written and directed well, and the set was appropriate so emphasis was on the characters in focus. The effect of this tension was that the audience was able to feel the desperation Mrs Lyons had. The relief and happiness and the contrast with Mrs Johnston when the twin was finally handed over empathised the dissimilarity between these two characters and their difference in status.
Another Tension of the task scene was those by Eddie. He was presented with many different tasks with Mickey. For example sneaking out the house, but most of all going down to the area where Mickey lived. Eddie had various choices and worries about going to visit Mickey; he knew his mother did not approve but he was unable to comprehend her reasons. His on stage actions and facial expressions were finely tuned so that the audience was aware that he was making complex decisions in his mind. This was effective at creating tension in the earlier stages where the audience was not able to determine whether it was his character to disobey his mother’s request to stay away vs his friendship over Mickey. Mickey also integrated Tension of the task, he wanted to fall in love with Linda. This tension was comical, as every time he wanted to express his feelings with Linda he would stutter and loose track. He direly wanted to express his feelings; he even asked Eddie for advise in the matter. It was Mickey’s Body language that made his intentions clear as when Linda turned her back he would use his body language to express how annoyed he was about being unable to achieve his task of expressing his feelings to Linda. This was a particularly effective technique and created the desired affect nicely.
Another tension type used was Tension of the relationship. This was properably the most widely used tension used in Blood Brothers after all the play is about the relationship between these two brothers- the fact that they are twins unknowingly. The audience is knows that these two are brothers and there is a degree of dramatic irony taking place. Throughout all of Blood Brothers, we explore the Characters of Mickey and Eddie in great detail, their feelings and responses to all that is going on around them. There is a great deal of contrast in status between these characters; we become exposed to the different complications each type of status has. Mickey and his money problems; Eddie finding it difficult to make friends. This makes Blood Brothers truly great, Willy Russell has gone to great lengths to explore how society treats those with different status- often he incorporates meaning and thought in some scenes of Blood Brothers. Tension of relationship is the problem of the relationship between two characters, resolved by managing the relationship. For example, someone may leave the set. In the case of Blood Brothers as per the Narrators effective use of the ‘Devil’s gonna get ya’ and Mrs Lyons myth that if two twins should see each other and become aware of there relationship they shall die. Infact this was indeed the outcome of the play; both the characters died as per shooting from the police who appeared of stage. Infact this particular scene needs to be explored later in this essay. The two brothers are faced with the problem of conflicting parents; which causes difficulty in their friendship. The Audience was always left in tension guessing what Eddie would decide to do at times, whether he would go with Mickey or not. Always involving the audience allowed Blood Brothers to build the maximum tension in this category. Mrs Johnston’s standalone performances and songs also helped the audience build a character profile.
Another type of tension used in Blood Brother was the tension of mystery. This type of tension is defined as an environment where characters are presented with a plot or problem but they do not know what it means or what its effect is. This is resolved by greater exploration of the plot. Mystery tension was used throughout in a sense of dramatic irony. When Mickey exclaimed to Eddie that his birthday was on a certain date, Eddie was quick to exclaim that their birthdates also resided on the same day. This created an atmosphere of mystery and confusion; has both characters showed via body language they re-thought the situation in their minds before continuing. It was at that point Mickey proposed the Blood Bothers idea. Mystery was also rifled between Eddie and Mrs Johnston where he was unable to comprehend why she was taking a defensive position against him. Throughout the play these two characters achieved a great deal of tension. Lighting and Sounds changed to a darker mix, lights were dimmed presenting darkness, and music readied when these two characters were together on stage. This setting change always lifted the effect of tension to the audience and was used appropriately and effectively throughout.
The final tension incorporated in Blood Brothers was the tension of the surprise. Tension of surprise is the process of where a character becomes aware of something they did not already know and consider it shocking. Indeed, Blood Brothers had an immensely great tension of surprise nearer the end of the show. The ending of Blood Brothers was most fantastic and devastatingly dramatic with vivid spectacular use of dramatization and staging positions with Surround Sound. The Tension of surprise was pulled off with fantastic direction. The audience was stunned when loud gunshots blazed around the theatre and immediately grabbed the audience’s attention. Cast members surreptitiously made their way off-stage to the back of the room. The police officers approached with such realism the audience was in ore when the shots were fired. The audience jumped immediately and it was clear the tension of surprise was indefinitely achieved here. This final scene was definably the strength and greatness of Blood Brother. The narrator finished off the programme with a variation of his usual lines, an effective ending.
Overall, I feel Blood Brothers is a successful drama performance. However, I did be come bored just before and after the intermission as I felt things became a little repetitive. Despite the speedy scene transitions, to much time was spent dordling onstage with no real purpose. Similarly, some scenes were unnecessary and were drawn out to long to be effective. Mrs Johnston’s, ‘Go dancing’ songs were good at first but decrease in value as the play went on- sometimes I felt the songs placement was poorly thought out- as was its length. I also felt the Narrator was underused somewhat. His reason for being was never really made clear, perhaps he should have had more interaction with the characters. Mrs Lyons, body language I thought was especially good when faced with the narrator and she should be congratulated on delivering a solid performance in this regard. As was the acting by Eddie and Mickey; both character delivered strong performances, especially when the characters were in a younger stage. The adult performers pulled off a childhood effect with great accuracy and strength that deserves complementing. Infact the overall quality of the acting was very good. The Narrator spoke loudly and with clarity, and created an impressive atmosphere with his voice. Cast members seemed to be well aware of there lines and scripts, I was unable to fault the acting from a fixed script. If any improvisation did occur, it was done very well and was accepted and developed precisely. It was clear the effect of Blood Brothers was well received by the audience; I noticed that many people had enjoyed the showing. There was much talking about the narrator and how effectively he was at bringing the story together, even when perhaps I disagree In this regard. Overall, a strong spectacular performance that I would recommend to all.
- Dean Parker