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: DancingCopper
Date: 03/11/08, updated on 04/11/08 (453 review reads)
Advantages: Less pretentious songs than many West End shows, more intimate experience
Disadvantages: Scruffy theatre
Initially I saw the touring production in Nottingham but I have since seen it several times at the Phoenix Theatre in London. I don't have a particular fixation with the show, but it is a useful one for GCSE students to study and write about. However, I'll assume you're more interested in whether the show is worth catching on a trip to London, rather than its academic merits.
Blood Brothers seems to have been in the West End forever. Having been in London since 1988, it is only a couple of years younger than Les Miserables. To date, over ten million people have seen it. Perhaps you've wondered why.
Blood Brothers is the story of a pair of twins who are separated at birth. Their mother, Mrs Johnstone, cannot afford to raise both children so she leaves one in the care of her employer, Mrs Lyons. Mrs Lyons raises Eddie as her own son, in a comfortable house. Mrs Johnstone struggles to bring up Mickey and, following a falling out with Mrs Lyons, she loses her job and is unable to see Eddie at all.
The tragic notion of Fate is central to the events in Blood Brothers. The Narrator constantly challenges the audience to question their attitude towards Mrs Johnstone's decision. Fate it is that brings Mickey and Eddie together, not knowing they are brothers. The two become inseparable, being joined in their adventures by Linda.
The characters are played by the same actors over twenty years. The mannerisms of children they adopt are played with great humour. As their personalities and relationships mature, the audience end up empathising with the tribulations life throws at them. This is particularly true of Mickey.
While much of the story is light-hearted, there is an underlying political comment in Blood Brothers. All the action takes place in Liverpool, much of it in the early 1980s. Unemployment is crippling and life is bleak for many people. The original play was devised by Willy Russell with children who experienced this first-hand. At times the play can be as aggressively cynical as the later stage version of Billy Elliot.
The Phoenix Theatre itself was, on my last trip, in need of some renovation. I can't help feeling, when I'm in a scruffy theatre, I'm going to be seeing a scruffy show. Perhaps Blood Brothers has been here so long, they think people won't mind the tatty auditorium. The show deserves better; whereas the Woman in Black benefits from the dinginess of its home, Blood Brothers doesn't.
Blood Brothers is a big-hearted show and much of that warmth comes from its songs. They do not sound particularly polished, but the roughness gives them a more genuine feel. Whether Mrs Johnstone is singing about how she ended up pregnant again, or Mickey is singing about playing Cowboys and Indians, there is a great deal to make you smile. They are songs you'll find yourself singing, because the tunes are simple and the lyrics are witty. These are not songs you would necessarily sing if you wanted to showcase the talents of a voice but they do the job they are meant to. I'm very grateful for this as in some shows, such as Miss Saigon and parts of Wicked, the music seems to be about the singer, rather than the narrative. This is brilliantly parodied in Spamalot, if you're interested.
If you have to make the choice between seeing Blood Brothers or Billy Elliot, I would watch Billy Elliot. But you're missing out on something unique if you never catch Blood Brothers. So, go and see the story of the Johnstone twins...
Performances are 7.45 Monday to Saturday, with matinees at 3.00 on Thursday and 4.00 on Saturday.
Tickets: £52.50, £47.50, £42.50, £32.50, £22.50
Tel: 0870 060 6629
Monday - Saturday: 9am - 10pm
Sunday: 10am - 8pm
Charing Cross Road,
WriteWords.org.uk - Blood Brothers
Willy Russell, the writer of Blood Brothers, left school with one O-Level, in English. He returned to college a few years later and became a teacher.
Summary: Witty and bittersweet, you'll love the Jonhstone twins, and I bet you'll cry!
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