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Review: Blood Brothers UK Tour

Blood Brothers Review, UK Tour, Bristol Hippodrome

BLOOD BROTHERS

The Bristol Hippodrome

Tuesday 10th April – Saturday 22nd April 2017

To celebrate 30 years since Bill Kenwright’s Blood Brothers first toured the UK, the iconic musical is visiting theatres across the country and spending a couple of weeks at our very own Bristol Hippodrome along the way. Hailed as one of the best musicals of all time, Blood Brothers, has scooped up four awards for best musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway.

BLOOD BROTHERS SYNOPSIS

Blood Brothers tells the moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret.  When Mrs Johnstone, a young mother, is deserted by her husband and left to her own devices to provide for seven hungry children, she takes a job as a housekeeper in order to make ends meet. It’s not long before her brittle world crashes around her when she discovers herself to be pregnant yet again – this time with twins! In a moment of weakness and desperation, she enters a secret pact with her employer which leads inexorably to the show’s shattering climax.
Blood Brothers Review, UK Tour, Bristol Hippodrome

Lyn Paul is tremendous as Mrs Johnstone

BLOOD BROTHERS REVIEW

After a dramatically slow fade up, we find ourselves in a rundown cul-de-sac. To the left of the stage is a row of shabby, red brick terraced houses with a high wall at the end of the street daubed with Everton graffiti, lest we’re in any doubt that we’re in Liverpool. To the right is a dwelling so elegant, it even boasts a balcony! A gently sloping stage adds depth to the scene and a second storey offers extra scope for the narrator to step out of the shadows to keep his beady eye on the protagonists. Additional sets like the inside of the Lyons family’s grand home are smoothly dropped into place when needed.

We all enjoy creator Willy Russell’s reference to his days at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre where music within a drama was their ‘house-style’ and the accepted norm. Rather than a musical, Blood Brothers has the feel of a play which happens to have music in it and which combines the unusual device of using adult actors to play children with a meaty storyline which has us all debating why they did ‘this’ and what ‘that’ meant in the car on the way home afterwards.

During the show the children, Mickey, Eddie, Sammy and their friend Linda, who are all played by adults, cleverly grow up before our eyes.

Blood Brothers Review, UK Tour, Bristol Hippodrome

Children are played by adults.

At the tender age of 7, nearly 8, Mickey (played by fully grown Sean Jones) dangles his shorts-bedecked legs over the front of the stage and tells us, wide-eyed, all about his big brother Sammy’s amazing spitting skills and other equally important childhood attributes. Later in the show, dressed for depression in a sloppy cardi, with a vacant stare and slow, slurred speech, Sean Jones talented acting totally convinces me that Mickey’s pills habit has stripped him of his youthfulness and much of his former self.

Older brother, Sammy (Adam Search) trades his air gun for doctor martins and a Status quo jacket.

Childhood tomboy friend, Linda (Danielle Corlass) develops into an attractive young woman. The pigtails disappear and her skirt shrinks a few inches too.

In stark contrast to his impoverished friends, Edward (Mark Hutchinson) lives a charmed life with every toy and privilege a boy could possibly want and gradually becomes more and more removed from the lives of the others. It’s interesting to see the double standards between their education, the way they’re treated by members of authority like teachers and the police and to realise how different the blood brothers’ lives could have been.

The audience is acknowledged by the actors. After a scene at Edward’s exclusive school, his plummy master gives a nod to us as he discards his robe, ruffles his hair and instantly morphs into a heavily accented Liverpudlian teacher at the local comp.

The story is interesting and easy to follow and the narrator (Dean Chisnall) is constantly on hand to keep us up to date with events or unnerve us with his harsh judgements and superstitions!

This is the first time I’ve ever seen Blood Brothers and I’m not familiar with much of the music although it’s quite repetitive so I find myself  singing along by the end of the show. I particularly enjoy the emotionally charged Tell Me It’s Not True and Kids Game, a busy ensemble number which my older sons have recently performed in one of their drama club shows.

AGE SUITABILITY

There’s plenty of bad language, much of which is uttered by the ‘children’ which somehow seems less harsh than if an adult mouthed it. Mickey’s affluent new best friend is excited to learn new phrases such as “p***ed off” and “f**k off” which he unwisely tries out on his horrified Mother. In return, privileged Eddie (Mark Hutchinson) introduces Mickey to alien words like “dictionary”. The swearing isn’t completely restricted to the kids though. The adults have their share, for example the policeman who calls Mickey a “little b*st*rd”

Personally, I find the spitting revolting, and there’s a fair bit of it, but maybe if I was a little boy I’d relate to that type of humour!

The narrator is scary when he judges desperate Mrs Johnstone’s actions, his harsh singing accompanied by flashing red lights and menacing music:-

“You know the Devils got your number!”

My ten (almost eleven) year old suggests:-

” I don’t think it’s really suitable for any children under 9.” 

and I think he’s spot on. My eight year old doesn’t enjoy it as much as his older brothers who think it’s great.

Blood Brothers Review, UK Tour, Bristol Hippodrome

Relying on the giro in hard times

Check prices or book tickets to Blood Brothers or other shows here*

THE VERDICT?

Blood Brothers is an emotional roller coaster of a story which this cast delivers flawlessly. Lyn Paul who has played Mrs Johnstone before, handles her huge role superbly and she and Sarah Jane Buckley are so emotionally invested in their sons that I find myself choking back tears at a certain point, something I’ve never experienced at the theatre before.

The ten year old’s verdict

“One of the reasons I really enjoyed watching the show is because it made you feel lots of different emotions and you felt different things about different characters. I also liked how the show never got boring, and there was always something happening.  I liked how the children were played by adults and they were the same actors all the way through their life story. It was one of my favourite shows to go and see.”

Yes, I think that sums it up perfectly! As usual, please do share your thoughts about the show or our review in the comments below. If you’d like more information or would like to book tickets to Blood Brothers or other shows, click here*.

*Many thanks if you book anything through the affiliate link above as it provides a small commission at no extra cost to you which goes towards funding this blog.

BLOOD BROTHERS PERFORMANCES

The Bristol Hippodrome
Monday 10 – Saturday 22 April 2017
Mon – Sat 7.30pm
Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Tickets from £17.90
Concessions available at certain prices and performances

Click here for a complete diary listing of shows at the Bristol Hippodrome

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Blood Brothers Review, Uk Tour, Bristol Hippodrome

CAST & CREDITS

Creator Willy Russell is one of this country’s leading contemporary dramatists with impressive credits including:-
Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine.
Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright
Designed by Andy Walmsley Sound Designed By Dan Samson
Musical Direction by Kelvin Towse Lighting Designed by Nick Richings

Lyn Paul returns to the role of Mrs Johnstone, one she first played in 1997.  Lyn rose to fame in the early 1970s as a member of the New Seekers and was the featured vocalist on their 1972 Eurovision Song Contest entry, Beg, Steal or Borrow.

The rest of the cast for Blood Brothers includes Sarah Jane Buckley, Dean Chisnall, Mark Hutchinson, Sean Jones, Adam Search, Danielle Corlass, Tim Churchill, Graham Martin, Laura Harrison, Alison Crawford, Graeme Kinniburgh, Henry Regan and Josh Capper.

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