Blood Brothers Review

Did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins?

Anyone who’s just finished their GCSEs should have anyway, but for those who haven’t – first of all, you’re missing out – but secondly, the story is that of Willie Russell’s critically acclaimed musical, Blood Brothers.

The musical follows the harrowing tale of twin boys born in Liverpool to an impoverished mother with too many mouths to feed, a critical situation that leads her to make the hardest choice of all: to give one of her children away. Raised apart in two different social classes, the play follows the boys throughout their lives, up until their untimely deaths, as we bear witness to the disturbing impact social class has on the lives of ordinary people. Of course, that might seem a little spoiler-y, but fear not, it’s the same synopsis you’ll find in the opening lines of the play, sans fancy rhymes and Liverpudlian accent, of course.

Aine and I were lucky enough to see the musical in Derry this month, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Perhaps that was because we weren’t the ones driving over 200 miles in one day, or perhaps the show was just that good. I’ll leave that one for my mum to decide.

In my opinion, at least, it was every bit as incredible as I expected it to be, from the incredible acting of the cast, right down to the set design and even the musicians tucked away beneath the stage – which, by the way, did anyone else know this was a thing? Because I sure didn’t.

The cast featured the talented Lyn Paul as Mrs. Johnstone, the twins’ hard done by mother, who in 2008 was voted the “undisputed Mrs J. of all time” by a Blood Brothers fansite, corroborated by the guy in the row behind us who told us so right before informing us that he’d seen the show six times. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d have to argue on behalf of the soft spot in my heart for Kiki Dee’s Mrs J. What can’t be argued, however, is the fantastic job Paul did playing the tragic Johnstone matriarch or the power of her voice which won’t soon be forgotten. Another stand out star, in my opinion, was Sean Jones, who played Mickey, who completely stole the focus in the first act with his portrayal of his character as a typical seven-year-old.

No matter who takes on the roles, however, this is a show that transcends any individual cast’s performance; it’s every intricate piece that makes it the spectacle it is, with such a simple yet thought provoking premise that I feel it would be safe in the hands of any cast willing to take up the challenge. If anyone was considering going to see it, I’d certainly recommend it, and if you weren’t, I’d recommend it anyway. And just in case you’re wondering: no, Willy Russell is not paying me to write this unfortunately, I’m just one of those irritating people in your class who always gets way too into the source material. It’s a burden I’m willing to accept.

To conclude this glowing testimonial/free advertisement, though, I can tell you one thing for sure; I’ll be eagerly awaiting the return of Blood Brothers to Northern Ireland, and hopefully after some of you have read this post, I won’t be alone.

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(The theatre had a no photography policy, but I couldn’t resist this shot before the curtains were drawn. I mean, school blog priorities, right?)

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(Aine might just kill me for this one, but if I have to take unflattering photos for this, she’s going down with me.)