Still a story of our times

Blood Brothers

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

*****

LIKE the true classic it is, Blood Brothers never fails to envelop in its remorseless tragedy, enthrall with its broad appeal and enliven with its range of attractive characters. Every time I see this show new things appear and appeal.

There is too much for one sitting – it needs more – indeed deserves more. I’ve seen this star – Maureen Nolan – before and I think she brings more than a powerful voice and acute actor’s sense to the role.

She certainly brings those, but on top there’s a real emotive connection with her character and those around her. You probably remember the Nolan sisters and Maureen is the fourth sister to play Mrs Johnstone!

But what’s it really about? Well, that’s a biggie! On the surface it’s about a pair of twins separated at birth where one lives a privileged life with a childless couple (Tracy Spencer and Tim Churchill) in the ‘big house’ on the hill with private schooling and Oxbridge to look forward to while the other is deprived in all senses – brought up in a tiny, overcrowded house, direst, single-parent poverty in the decaying and unloved slums of Liverpool.

Their teacher is a bully, education is uninspiring, there’s no way to escape. Willy Russell’s twin obsessions with class and social mobility inspire the piece and his ‘twin experiment’ into nature versus nature, produces not a diatribe against the evils of a capitalist regime but a really enjoyable ‘musical’ where these huge themes are played out mixed with generous dollops of laughter.

The richest section is easily the ‘children’ playing in the street. ‘Our Sammy’ (Daniel Taylor) is two years older than Mickey and Eddie, a bully with an obsession with firearms, and a bit of wrong ’un – again a portent of the future.

Although Mrs Johnstone is ostensibly the star, the make or break role is Mickey Johnstone and Sean Jones is charismatic and watchable in this broad role. As he ages and his relationships with Linda (Danielle Corlas) and his twin brother Eddie (Mark Hutchinson) develop the mood darkens and narrator Krisopher Harding’s prognostications become reality as the story heads remorselessly towards its grisly end.

If you’ve never seen Blood Brothers, it’s definitely time – though, a word to wise women, don’t wear mascara …it just doesn’t last. Directed by Bob Thomson and Bill Kenwright Blood Brothers runs at The Belgrade to 08-02-14

Jane Howard 

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