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Did y'hear the story of the Johnstone twins?
Member Name: Ainat
Date: 06/09/12, updated on 29/06/13 (191 review reads)
Advantages: Great story, amazing songs, brilliant performances from all actors
Disadvantages: Soon closing in the West End. :-(
A few nights ago my partner, my mum and I all went to go see the show Blood Brothers at the Phoenix Theatre in London. I LOVE going to the theatre, and will take almost any opportunity to go, so when a very inviting offer dropped into my partners e-mail account we decided to take it up and go see this show.
Now Blood Brothers has always been something I would have liked to see, but wasn't at the top of my list of shows that I want to see right now. However, I also found out the show is closing in a couple months time - the last show is October 27th 2012. Seeing as this show has its last date announced it was kind of a now or never situation. The offer that my partner had been able to get was £10 (plus booking fee) per ticket. Pretty amazing, and also cheaper than the cheapest seats full price. The small catch with this though was that we wouldn't know what seats we would have until we got to the theatre on the day of the performance. We decided to go for it anyway, as like I say, a tenner is cheaper than the cheapest tickets full price, so whatever seats we ended up with would have been a bargain. In fact, we were very lucky. We got seats in the second row! We were on the far left (as you walked in) of the theatre, but being a bit to the side didn't affect the view at all. The way the set is laid out meant we could see everything that was happening on stage clearly throughout the whole performance.
A little about the theatre itself - it is one of the smaller theatres I have been to in London, decorated in red and gold it looks amazing. A few framed posters tell you a little of the theatres history - what shows have graced its stage in the past. A few things to possibly consider if going to this theatre would include toilet access - same as many other old theatres there are not many toilets considering the amount of people in the building in one go - expect to queue for a while if you wish to go in the interval. Drinks are available at the bar, of course these are more expensive than your average pub, but you can pre-order interval drinks before the show starts to save time later. Another thing that you may wish to consider is disabled access for wheelchairs - we didn't need to worry about this, but I imagine some seating areas would be difficult to reach if you are a wheelchair user. Looking on the website I can't find any information relating to this issue specifically, but there is a number to call if you have any requirements that you wish to discuss.
"So, did y'hear the story of the Johnstone twins?
As like each 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 powerful story. The first act tells us about Mrs. Johnstone and her ever increasing brood. After her husband leaves her when she is pregnant with twins she is desperately trying to figure out how she is going to cope. Mrs. Johnstone works as a housekeeper in a local rich couples house, the wife of which is unable to conceive. On hearing Mrs. Johnstone's dilemma a plan hatches in Mrs Lyon's mind - she could pretend she is also pregnant and have one of the twins when they are born. Her husband is away for months for work, the timing is perfect. Mrs Lyon's will pretend she found out she was pregnant a little after he left, and the baby would be here just before his return. Believing this is the best option for her child, and that she would still get to see him, Mrs. Johnstone agrees. When the twins arrive though she really begins to regret this decision.
"How swiftly those who've made a pact,
Can come to overlook the fact
Or wish the reckoning be delayed
But a debt is a debt, and must be paid."
The series of events that follow mean that the twins are brought up separately at different ends of the economical scale. Mickey is brought up poor, with his rightful mother. Eddie is brought up with all he could want in the world. Neither twin knows the other is his brother. The 'mothers' do their best to make sure the pair never meet - they are both very superstitious and believe that if one of the twins separated at birth were to find they were part of a pair, they would both die on that very same day. Fate seems to have different plans though and Mickey and Eddie become best friends. After finding out they share the same birthday they become blood brothers.
As the boys grow up, the audience follows their story and experiences what it is like at both ends of the class system. We see the boys grow from babies, through their teenage years where they begin to fall for girls, and are generally just your average teenage boys, to adults and how they are coping with their working lives. This whole time the boys are still in the dark about their true identities.
If you have seen this already, or have read the play by Willy Russell I'm sure you know how the story ends. I'm not going to give this away in my review though!
The play has its comical moments throughout - I especially loved the portrayal of the boys when they were seven (nearly eight!). Along with the rest of the theatre we giggled at the boys playing Cowboys and Indians, and generally enjoying being young. The undertone is much more serious though and there are also several moments that tug at your heartstrings.
The casts' performances were amazing throughout. Mrs. Johnstone in particular was amazing. She was on stage for the majority of the play, and her vocals were phenomenal. As an audience member we could really feel the emotion behind her lyrics. Mrs Lyons was also played really well. Being right near the front we could really see her emotions on her face. In fact, all of the cast members played their parts fantastically, and I loved that some had several parts to play. Unlike any other show I've seen in the West End, the narrator also has an important part to play. He doesn't personally interact with the characters very often; he's more like their conscience whilst making sure the audience is keeping up with the story. After all, a lifetime is a long time to fit in to less than 3 hours!
I can't think of anything negative to say about this show. It wasn't the most advanced show I've seen in terms of set design, etc, but the story simply didn't need it. It was emotional - there were definitely a few wet eyes leaving the theatre, mine included. It had its comical moments. It was very powerful. The songs were amazing throughout - though probably not so amazing when I was singing them on the tube on the way home! As it is drawing to close I would definitely recommend going to see this if you have the chance.
Summary: A fantastic show, go see it if you have the chance!
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