A packed out theatre and standing ovation is the least that this specular play deserves. Willy Russel’s Blood Brothers has been breaking hearts for more than 30 years with its real-to-life characters, witty lines, and charming soundtrack.
The sets are simple but effective with smooth transitions, including a beautiful city-scape with twinkling lights in houses on either side of the street.
Set in 1970’s Liverpool, a poor mother Mrs Johnstone, played by the very talented Linzi Hateley, has been left by her husband. She is left with several children to look after, no money and twins on the way. Enter the kindly rich employee, Mrs Lyons played perfectly by Sarah Jane Buckley, who is desperate for a child. And so a deal is made.
While their children become best friends unknowing of their bond, the mothers are torn apart by guilt and fear. The audience is taken on a familiar ride as we watch these two boys, Eddie and Mickey grow up unaware of the divide between them. You can tell both Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson have been playing the twins for years, because they bring such unique energy to the roles, really engaging with the audience and the characters. They capture the magic of childhood in a humorous and real way.
The ever-present Narrator haunts the stage like a dark shadow, the conscience on the play, the dark cloud on a summer’s day. Robbie Scotcher is excellent in the role, bringing a sense of drama and danger to the stage.
After the beautifully bittersweet summer scene, depicting their teenage years the twins are eventually split-up and enter the real world. “And who dare tell the lambs in spring, what fate the later seasons bring.” Mickey is married young with a baby and no job while Eddie parties on at University, a cushy job waiting for him.
Hats off to Sean for his spot on, though brief portrayal of depression. How he slowed down his speech and movement and was slightly off-kilter, like there’s a disconnect between him and reality. The deadly reliance on pills. Truly stunning and heartbreaking performance which, for me, really hits the nail on the head.
At the end there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Linzi performed a beautiful rendition of the play’s famous song, ‘Tell me it’s not true’. Yes, there were even tears from this journalist, who has seen the play twice before.
Blood Brothers is a true classic for the ages that everyone should see at least once.
Blood Brothers is at The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent from 22-27 October 2018.