When it comes to the theatre, I’m not going to lie and pretend that I’m some serious thesp and try to bluff my way through stage direction, voice projection, lighting, musical scores and all that jazz. There are publications and blogs out there who will be able to dissect a show for you in those terms and sound relatively convincing. What I do know however, is how I feel. I use my gut, my heart and tear ducts to judge whether I enjoyed a show or not and last night the three of them were working in unison to leave me on the edge of my seat.
I’ve seen Blood Brothers once before at Regent Theatre in Stoke and it left me feeling emotionally drained, itwas the theatre equivalent of the film Titanic.
Blood Brothers is a tale of two brothers, separated at birth and brought together as friends by their love of cowboys and indians, running riot through the streets of Liverpool (dee do dow don’t dee?). The two are kept apart by their parents, Mickey – from the rough side of the tracks, lives at home with his biological mother and enough siblings to start a Von Trapp band, and Eddie (Edward) who lives on the well to do side with his “new” mummy and daddy, shiny shoes and socks to his knees.
Despite Eddies over protective “mummy” insisting that the family relocate to escape the constant reminders of Edward’s biological family, the Johnstones, the lives of the two families continue to intertwine despite the obvious differences in class of the two boys lives. Mickey’s poverty stricken existence and Eddie’s privileged lifestyle mean that the two face obstacles stemming from social and class divisions. The simple days of cowboys and indians are gone, and the harsh reality of life begins to plant seeds of division between the two former “best friends”.
Further more, that old devil called love rears its ugly head, and the two are entwined in a love triangle with the beautiful Linda, their mutual childhood friend. Eddie does that “my friend really likes you I think you should get together” thing, and then cries into his pillow over said person (we’ve all been there, right?). He moves away to uni to study at Oxford, whilst Mickey is forced into a job in a factory, marries the lovely Linda, knocks her up and then falls headfirst into a life of crime through unemployment. Mickey’s downfall comes after he’s imprisoned and tumbles into depression, which in turn pushes Linda away into the arms of a sympathetic Eddie. Jealousy and betrayal make for the bitterest pill for Mickey to swallow and the fall out from this leads to the brothers discovering that their blood tie ran deeper than they ever thought, culminating in a tragic end emotional ending (by emotional I mean lots of crying people, EVEN MEN)
The only time I’ve ever been rendered speechless and in shock over a theatre production was watching Phantom of the Opera in the West End. By the interval of most shows I’m either desperate for another glass of wine or a toilet break (or both) – during Blood Brothers I felt like someone had turned the TV off during the middle of my favourite film.
I think the relateability of the core characters is what resonates and is the reason why audiences have received the show so well for almost 3 decades. Sean Jones and Joel Benedict’s portrayals of separated twins Mickey and Eddie through the years was really impressive. Grown men acting as 7 (nearly 8!) year olds could come off as being slightly… weird, but everything about the characters was perfection. I’d welled up twice before the interval at parts which I was informed “weren’t even the tear jerkers”. Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone, Mickey’s mother, was both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. Despite me expecting to hold it together this time, come the end of the show I was sobbing, my lip was quivering, and my sobbing friend next to me had to hand me a tissue so I could show my face without fear of watery black tracks.
This is a powerhouse of a show. The entire cast was phenomenal (which showed at the end of the evening – even the too cool for school chav in the seats across the aisle was on his feet clapping)., the music was amazing (soundtrack please?) and I love how it battled a multitude of serious topics, while still delivering some real belly laughs.
Blood Brothers runs at the Crewe Lyceum Theatre until Saturday 19th March – tickets are available online or via the box office.