Everyone has secrets. Everyone has something they regret, something they think about all the time, that eats them up inside. But none of that compares to regrets and decisions in Blood Brothers – the story of the Johnstone twins, as like each other as two new pins.
Friendship. Love. Superstition. Betrayal. Tragedy. Willy Russell’s classic tale of two brothers separated at birth is now almost 30 years old, yet it hasn’t lost any of its poignancy or emotion. Students in the audience fidgeted initially, but were completely gripped by the end of Act I and crying at the end of Act II.
Songs are dramatic and the whole musical flips from upbeat and fun to slow and meaningful. The song Kids Game is cute and funny at first, until later on when the guns become real and death is no longer a joke. Repetition and reprise keep the story moving along, helped by the sadistic voice of the Narrator (Kristofer Harding), who cruelly dominates the stage.
The cast is incredibly strong, particularly Lyn Paul who is perhaps the best Mrs Johnstone I’ve ever seen. Her singing and stage presence are fantastic throughout, but it is in the final scene where she is suddenly a broken, devastated woman and her performance rips through your heartstrings until you can’t bear it. Every essence of her being is Mrs Johnstone mourning the loss of her two boys and regretting her life choices. It’s incredibly powerful and leaves you feeling as helpless as she is.
Sean Jones brings the perfect combination of childlike innocence and adult hardness to the role of Mickey, while Joel Benedict is sweet and pompous as Eddie. Paula Tappenden does well as the sad and jealous Mrs Lyons and Danielle Corlass as Linda manages to portray a giggling flirting teenager as well as a lonely, depressed housewife.
Every time I see this production I forget how moving it is. We watch each character struggle with his or her secret, moving closer to an impending doom that we can do nothing about. The ending, when it comes, never ceases to shock and upset; the sobbing and standing ovation from the audience serve only to enhance the fact that this is a timeless and brilliant piece of theatre.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Blood Brothers is playing until 30 January 2016 at the Richmond Theatre and then on tour around the UK. Click here for dates and tickets