Review: Blood Brothers at Newcastle Theatre Royal 2024 Tour
Blood Brothers – Tuesday 30th January
Tell me it’s not true, last night I went to see one of the most wonderful, heartfelt pieces of theatre I have ever seen. I have never seen Blood Brothers even though it has been such a popular touring show over the last thirty years. It has set off on its next tour around the UK and it is still managing to pack out audiences with its massive fan base. It really is a true British classic set in the heart of Liverpool.
The theatre was packed out and filled with groups of school Drama students as I know it is a popular show amongst many schools due to its incredible monologues and gritty storyline. There was an excited feel within the audience as the show began. The staging was simple but so effective dropping down from the ceiling and managed expertly. The homes were fitting for the time period alongside all of the props and costuming.
The lights of the stunning backdrop started to illuminate as the cast took to the stage. I loved the beginning as it foreshadowed the next hour and half of the show. It was staged reverently and delicately although it definitely is an immediate spoiler if you have never seen it before. We were greeted with our Narrator for the evening who was played by Scott Anson. He had the eerie, melodramatic part down to a tee and spent most of his time on stage relaying their emotions and feelings expertly as he sang the shoes upon the table throughout- letting them know that the devil is always right behind them. He lurked in the darkness frozen during so many scenes and honestly I don’t know how he stood still for so long. Not the best vocal I have ever heard but it was solid and his delivery of his lines was cutting and menacing. His poem delivered at the end was truly the stand out of his performance though and gave me chills. So emotional.
Speaking of being emotional, Niki Colwell Evans played the formidable Mrs. Johnstone. Another X Factor favourite and rightly so with her beautiful singing voice which has only improved with age. Her accent was word perfect and she had me utterly convinced she was a scouser through and through. Her delivery of both the character’s kindness and being a lost soul was both endearing and devastating. She really had the ability to make her character so loveable although as we know she hadn’t always made the right choices. She gave vulnerability to such a delicate topic of the lives of the lower class. Throughout, her singing was an absolute masterclass. I wouldn’t say she had the typical musical theatre voice but boy, she gave it so much more depth and craft than I could have ever imagined. Marylin Monroe is of course one of the show’s most iconic songs and for good reason with Russell’s clever lyrics. She has already previously done this role and it showed hugely through her portrayal of this character.
Another reprise of a role was by Sean Jones who played Mickey both on the West End and in the tour for twenty years- wow! I cannot lie, he totally stole the show for me. I don’t think I have ever seen an actor show their craft with such expertise upon stage. These main roles are so difficult to play as they play all ages of their character – from him playing the young naive little boy to the recently released from jail and suffering with his mental health as an adult. The range he showed throughout his time on stage was mesmerizing. He commanded every inch of the stage and had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. The monologue when he first enters the stage ‘Nearly 8’ was a true masterclass in how to deliver comedy and sincerity in one punch. His physical acting accompanied everything else perfectly.
His stage brother was played by the endearingly wonderful Joe Sleight who made us all fall in love with his upper class character Eddie instantly. There is no malice within this character and it takes a certain amount of innocence to be able to pull it off. He had the most beautiful tenor voice which we really heard during ‘I’m not saying a word’ which he sang to Linda. The pair combined were totally electric on stage and you could really feel their chemistry and relationship throughout the performance. Mrs Lyon’s, his mother, was played by Sarah Jane Buckley. She gave a brilliant performance and had the neurotic traits down to a tee too. I particularly loved her descent into madness and thought the lighting team did a great job in expressing this on stage with the spotlights and flashing lights. The use of lighting throughout was very clever and appropriately used, especially the use of the red filter on stage.
Linda was played by Gemma Brodrick – a true representation of girl power as she defeated the boys in their games and stood up for what she believed in. She did a beautiful job at this role and her scene with Mickey in their new home was jaw dropping. I could have heard a pin drop during the silence and pain they portrayed. Naughty Sammy was also played well by Timothy Lucas, a true Liverpudlian. There was no faking that accent, that’s for sure.
The sound team had every detail spot on from the echoes in the singing which gave such a well rounded sound to the gunshots which sent shivers up my spine. That final scene where they sing Tell Me it’s not True will stick with me for years to come. Every single actor on stage sang the song effortlessly and the pain in their faces felt so real. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Such a powerful ending to a show which deserved it. There are just so many hidden messages and meanings throughout and the writing from Willy Russell has stood the test of time which is a real testament to this show.
Last night was truly wonderful and it won’t be the last time I will see this incredible show. It was faultless throughout. Clear diction and some of the finest acting I have ever seen. I had goosebumps throughout and I have never been in a theatre where the silence spoke such volumes. Top tier singing and storytelling. So refreshing to see such a wonderful British production and so well deserving of their standing ovation. You could see the pride in the cast’s faces and rightly so. They truly blew the roof off of the Theatre Royal. 10/10.
Blood Brothers plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tue 30 Jan – Sat 3 Feb 2024. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.
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