So, did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins?
As like each other as two new pins.
Of one womb born on the self-same day.
How one was kept and one given away …
Originally written as a school’s tour in the early 1980’s, ‘Blood Brothers’ went on to spend 24 years playing in the West End and even longer on tour. It tells the story (for those few who haven’t yetseen it!) of twins, separated at birth: Mickey remaining with his mother Mrs. Johnstone; Edward being brought up by the much wealthier Lyons family.
Many years ago (more than I care to remember!), I studied the play for GCSE drama and subsequently have explored the play with countless young people as a Drama and English teacher. The question amongst colleagues has often been raised – why is this piece of theatre still studied after so many years – is it still relevant now?
I answer this with a resounding YES – I argue that, although the piece is nearing 40 years since it was written, it still packs a powerful punch!
This piece retains its relevancy and will do for many years to come. Its strength lies in the fact that it explores themes at a very human level: the human cost of the class system and inequality; the cost of political acts on normal people; personal beliefs; and the meaning of love in all its forms.
The set hasn’t changed over the years, but then why should it? With only two rows of houses and a cyclorama upstage, we are seamlessly transported from the Johnstone’s house in the slums of Liverpool, to the Lyon’s house in the wealthy suburbs – with brief stops on board a ‘92 bus’, Edward’s boarding school, the local ‘comp’ where Mickey and Linda are students and (a highlight for many audience members!) a trip to see ‘Naughty Nymphos and Swedish Au Pairs’, to name but a few – all with the use of simple props, or set pieces flown in.
The cast is superb, with every member being thoroughly invested in the piece throughout. Particular attention should be paid to Alexander Patmore as Mickey, who played the character arc beautifully and brought a lump to my throat (no mean feat having seen the musical around 10 times!). The same can be said for Danielle Corlass’ Linda who ages wonderfully from a vibrant 8-year-old, to the woman, worn down by life, which Linda later becomes.
The moral dilemma faced by Mrs Johnston (played by former ‘New Seekers’ member Lyn Paul) was gripping to watch and Chloe Taylor’s Mrs Lyons was brought to life with more subtlety than I have seen before with the descent in to madness being palpable.
The vocals are wonderful throughout, the well-known numbers such as ‘Tell Me It’s not True’ being sung with a gusto, while Lyn Paul (Mrs Johnstone) and Robbie Scotcher’s (Narrator) harmonies being a particular pleasure to hear and the Ensemble with ‘Miss Jones’ bringing a shiver to my spine with its power and intensity.
All in all a wonderful, relevant piece of theatre, that still taps in to the heart of our humanity. The audience obviously agreed – 5 curtain calls and a standing ovation (which were thoroughly deserved)!
Tel: 029 2087 8889
Until 28th September