Review | Blood Brothers | Newcastle Theatre Royal
Invited | This week Blood Brothers came to the Newcastle Theatre Royal while on it’s UK Tour. First shown in 1981 it was a musical with book, lyrics, and music by Willy Russell, who also wrote Educating Rita which was on only a couple of weeks ago at this very same venue. You can read that review here. Some have seen this play once, other a few times and someone told me twelve times! So it’s a definate favourite, but theres also others like me that have heard about it, but never seen it. A quick google search brought me up to speed on the stroyline and ready I was. So did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins?
This is a play about Nature versus Nurture. Two twins Mickey and Eddie, seperated at birth, one growing up poor and another wealthy. Characters defined by their upbringing and surroundings. They somehow come together despite the efforts of either mothers to keep them seperated. They become best friends and blood brothers despite their differences and as they grow up go through very different experiences, fall in love with the same girl which causes friction and ultimately leads to the deaths of both of them.
We are introduced by a sombre overture showing us the end result of the story we are about to see, two fallen children. Only discovering they were brothers on the day they died.
Paula Pattenden was fabulous as our poor mother Mrs Johnstone. The poor mother who already had an abundance of children. Not able to afford having twins and opting to give one over to Mrs Lyons the wealthy mother, who is unable to have children. We get a great introduction to her beautiful voice in song ‘Marilyn Monroe’ which gives us a brief background of her life thus far and of which is cleverly adapted later a couple of times in the show, and emotionally sung our final song ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ . Her sadness, fears and excitement at different points of this play were great.
Josh Capper was equally as fabulous for me in this play as Mickey Johnstone. We learn about him from the age of seven. We become endeared with his being, his attitude, his cheeky chappy persona, and we see being the poor child in this, he has learned to use his imaginaton and likes to break the rules. We see him grow up, try to do well for himself and only by circumstance see him take some decisions that change his life for the worse with no one to help out, which eventually changes him as a person.
Grace Galloway was the wealthy mother Mrs Lyons, desperate for a child and willing to persuade Mrs Johnstone to hand one over, we learn there’s a side to her thats manipulative, mean and paranoid. This secret she struggles with, which drives her to to do anything to keep the children apart and ruin their friendship when given the chance. Grace plays this role well and is clear in her role as the upper class mother.
Narrated by Robbie Scotcher just amazingly throughout, we hear the story in spoken rhyme and song. His near ever presence on stage overseeing the story. He displayed a subtle stature over the characters as the story played out. I liked songs such as Gypsies in the wood where we got to hear him belt out his voice, and intro’s into Summer Sequence, One day in October and Shoes Upon The Table just some.
Eddie the posh brother comes off well, played by Joel Benedict, he is just smashing! Likaeable but very different, we see how privilege has dictated his life and upbringing. As he grows up we see him become more confident and successful. As with every tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, there’s usually a woman involved. A love triangle between the brothers and Linda played by Danielle Corlass. I liked the transition we saw in her character from pig tailed girl, to sexy teen to mother and tired wife. Linda’s love since a child has been for Mickey which eventually is recipricated, but Eddie too falls for her. This creates distrust and a breakdown between the brothers that they dont come back from.
One thing that surprised me in this play was that from such a sad beginning, just how much humour it had. We already knew the ending as it had been shared at the start. But seeing the characters of Eddie and Mickey together as children and elders we were remidned of youth and innocence. It was a real joy to watch and i underdstand now why this is so popular.
I’d just like to add this was supposed to be Lyn Pauls farewell tour as Mrs Johnstone, but due to illness she was unable to perform on the night we attended, along with Alexander Patmore who would usually be Mickey. So in fact those great performances from Josh Capper, Paula Pattenden and Grace Galloway as Mrs Lyons were all played by understudies in the roles. All took a leading role and if you hadn’t have been told they were filling in, you’d never have known any the less. An ensemble cast also contributed well and Daniel Taylor was funny as older brother to little Mickey,
Tickets from: From £15.00
Matinees: Wed & Thu 2pm, Sat 2.30pm
Running time: 2hrs 50mins (including interval)