Willy Russell’s melodrama had us in stitches but also made us cry dead hard, leading the sell-out audience at the Liverpool Empire to give the cast a deserved, and prolonged, standing ovation. Blood Brothers is a phenomenon. Over 30 years since its first performance, it has played around the world. Testimony to its strong tale of tangled fate and good motives resulting in bad deeds.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Poverty forces Mrs. Johnstone (Lyn Paul, from the New Seekers fame) to give away one of her two youngest children to her employer, upper-class Mrs. Lyons (Sarah Jane Buckley) whom is unable to have children other own. Sworn to silence, Mrs. Johnstone won’t allow the son she keeps, Mickey (Sean Jones), to play with his twin, Eddie Lyons (Joel Benedict). The two boys, unaware of their blood ties, meet and become best friends, despite the efforts of their parents. Complications and tragedy ensue, but not before absolute hilarity from every cast member, especially Sean Jones as Mickey.
Our very own Willy Russell, the Scouse playwright maybe best known around the world for “Educating Rita,” examines the very prevalent topic of the class struggle. At the same time, he campaigns strongly for environment as a more important factor than heredity in determining personality type. Mickey becomes a scally, while Eddie assumes all the characteristics of a stereotypical upper-class twit. Yet they’re drawn together and, eventually, to the same woman, Linda (Danielle Corlass).
The first half is fast-paced and full of energy as we meet the children on the estate, comically played by adults. The song Kids Game becomes a huge, noisy game of cowboys and Indians. There are some brilliantly funny moments, as Mickey runs around the stage pretending to ride a horse and some seriously slap stick gags involving spit. Throughout the second half, the tension mounts. I wasn’t the only one who jumped out their seat when loud gunshots were fired! Sean Jones gives an outstanding performance as Mickey, transforming from an energetic seven-year-old boy into a troubled man, who can’t find work and gets sent to prison. The final scene had much of the audience in tears the earned a thoroughly deserved standing ovation.
If you don’t go to the theatre very often then make sure this is the show you choose for your annual trip. If you’re lucky enough to get out to the theatre all the time but still haven’t seen Blood Brothers, what are you even playing at?