Blood Brothers – Bord Gais Theatre – Review
This is the tale of two brothers, Eddie and Mickey, separated shortly after birth. The twins were born to Mrs. Johnstone (Rebecca Storm) who was struggling to get by. Her husband left her for another woman and she is trying to feed and house her family by herself. She is offered the chance to give one of the children up. Her wealthy employer, Mrs Lyons (Sarah Jane Buckley) cannot have children herself and offers to bring one of the twins up as her own. Mrs. Johnstone accepts her employer’s offer, a pact which will have dire consequences.
This is a touring production of Blood Brothers which has Rebecca Storm in the role of Mrs. Johnstone. It’s a part she knows very well, having first auditioned for the part at the age of 23. She now plays a more age appropriate version of the Liverpudlian Catholic mother.
It is the second Willy Russell play to hit Irish stages in as many weeks, with Educating Rita having only just finished in the Gaiety. This play was written by Russel in 1983 and was a massive success. It was one of the longest running musicals ever in the West End, running for an amazing 24 years and over 10,000 performances. This production is by Bill Kenwright, and for football fans, yes, that is the same Kenwright who is the Chairman of Everton football club. There is a hint at this by the graffiti at the back of the set for the same club!
The play has all the usual elements of a musical, and when the emotion gets too great for the performers, the only answer is song! The first half of the play features some of the tallest ‘children’ on stage you can imagine, with most of them well into their thirties. They break into song on many occasions, and this play has some very well known tunes such as Marilyn Monroe and Tell Me It’s Not True. In particular, Marilyn Monroe is used as a reoccurring theme, with the lyrics altered depending on what stage the play is at.
The stage is a fairly realistic recreation of a row of terrace houses, typical with corporation houses of the 1960s. There are various backdrops that alter depending on the location, and sections of other rooms descend from the heavens to create the inside of the various houses. It is a very adaptable stage, as there are many locations, but some imagination is required.
As with most musicals, this will split the camps into those who enjoy them and those that don’t! It is unlikely to promote any damascene conversions, so only go if you sit on the ‘all singing’ portion of the divide. The 16 member cast are all impressive performers and rarely put a foot wrong. Rebecca Strong is obviously the stand out name, and she is a creditable actor as well as being able to blast out the show tunes. Sean Jones as the poorer of the twins Mickey is very impressive as a young boy.
The tale is quite straight forward, and dare I say it, predictable at times but really this is about the songs and the emotional roller-coaster ride. It does have a lot of humour which really helps. As I entered the theatre, the woman in front of me proudly told the usher that this was her seventh time seeing Blood Brothers! People love this play and this is a strong production of it. If you’re a fan of the genre, the combination of Rebecca Strong and Blood Brothers will surely be too much to ignore.
Mrs Johnstone Lyn Paul
Mrs Johnstone Rebecca Storm
Narrator Dean Chisnall
Mickey Sean Jones
Eddie Mark Hutchinson
Sammy Adam Search
Linda Danielle Corlass
Mr Lyons Tim Churchill
Policeman/Teacher Graham Martin
Donna Marie/Miss Jones Laura Harrison
Brenda Alison Crawford
Brenda** Joanne McShane
Bus Conductor Graeme Kinniburgh
Mrs Lyons Sarah Jane Buckley
Perkins Henry Regan
Neighbour Josh Capper