Blood Brothers returns to Birmingham Hippodrome
Blood Brothers is no stranger to the Birmingham Hippodrome stage, this being the tenth tour since it first came to Birmingham in 1995. Developed from a school play and lifted to international acclaim, having played in the West End for 24 years and over 10,000 performances, this is a musical with a firm pedigree.
Born out of playwright Willy Russell’s Liverpudlian roots, it’s still relevant to this day. Themes of austerity and the perception of those just trying to get by in a world, where the deck of cards can feel heavily stacked against them, versus a world where everything can seem possible having the comfortable security of wealth to rely on.
The First Act is the lighter of the two, post opening scene and with great comedy throughout intertwined with touching moments of drama. The stand out performance of the First Act was Mrs Johnstone, played stunningly by Lyn Paul who’s well versed in the role having been the final Mrs Johnstone when it closed at The Phoenix Theatre in 2012. Her strong performance trying to do right by her family, struggling as a single parent throughout the 60’s and 70’s of inner city life in Liverpool, is the lynchpin. The Narrator, played by Dean Chisnall, was also impressive allowing an almost seamless transition between acting as a guide and a moral compass. Mickey and Eddie’s first encounters are seen through the eyes of children and are well acted. The First Act ends on a high, with a bright new future for Mrs Johnstone and her family in the country away from the grit and grime of Liverpool.
The Second Act was the more drama heavy of the two, allowing both brothers to shine through their teenage years to adulthood. Mickey played pitch-perfectly by Sean Jones (now having played the character for 12 years) grows from a carefree teenager into a blue collar worker in Thatcher’s Britain. He rails against a world that blocks his every turn, growing envious of his former childhood best friend Eddie, played by Joel Benedict. Eddie is a great counterfoil offering empathy and love to his best friend but demonstrating that they both have a different outlook on the world.
Special mentions should be made to Sarah Jane Buckley as Eddie’s mother, Mrs Lyons, whose constant fear becomes the driving force of her character throughout the play; Danielle Corlass plays Linda, who shows love for both Eddie and Mickey, and gives a path for the audience to see how, although, they are from two different worlds, there are things that are admirable about both of them. This helps the audience to understand the transition of Mickey’s character from happy-go-lucky to downtrodden, and the shocking ending.
The supporting cast is strong with great voice, humour and extremely quick turnaround of characters to allow the story to move apace.
The production design was well suited to the Birmingham Hippodrome, allowing plenty of room for the actors whilst giving the audience recognisable transitions between locations.
The music was well conducted and fits the time setting of the eras the play represents. Written in 1982, Willy Russell’s play feels as relevant now as it did then, covering timeless themes of family, class, love and friendship. This almost flawless production resonates with the audience in its depiction of relatable characters who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in situations outside of their control. A life lesson that has stood the test of time and is well worthy of the standing ovations given at the end.
Blood Brothers is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 22nd October. Book tickets here: birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/blood-brothers/
Ryan and Viv were invited on behalf of #BrumHour by Birmingham Hippodrome and this is their honestly held view.