17-22 February 2014
Reviewed by Rachel Legg
I went to see Blood Brothers at Bradford Alhambra theatre on Monday 17 February. The Alhambra is fairly easy to find and well signposted from the motorway. We parked in the NCP car park on Hall Ings a short 5 minute walk from the theatre, the car park is fairly pricey at £6 but if you go to the box office before the show you can collect a voucher which reduces the price to £3.50 for 4hrs which you can use on payment. There are also vouchers available for the other NCP car park in the Alhambra’s local vicinity.
The Alhambra is a beautiful venue and really suited to these kinds of productions, it has good refreshment facilities and as usual at the Alhambra the staff are very welcoming and helpful. We soon found our seats in the auditorium, where we were seated in the front stalls which have generous leg room and an extremely good view.
I have seen Blood Brothers before but it must be 10 years or so ago and I went with my mum who has never seen the show. It is a massively gripping, emotional rollercoaster of a show and I was welling up within the first 30 seconds of the dramatic opening scene. In brief the show is about a family living in the slums of Liverpool in the 1950’s, in response to the desperate poverty and following her husband walking out Mrs Johnstone is persuaded to give away one of her new twins to her employer. The show then follows the fortunes of the two boys, Mickey and Eddie, and their families and explores their relationship with each other despite them being unaware they are twins. The first half of the show concentrates on the boy’s childhoods age 7 and is superbly done. It is very funny, but also touching and emotional at times too. Willy Russell has captured the relationships of young boys within a large family so well that it is utterly realistic and believable. The second half of the show sees the boys re-united as 14yr olds and watches their friendship become re-established and develop over the next 4 yrs as they grow up together along with their mutual friend Linda. Unfortunately recession in the Docklands bites and life becomes less rosy for the Johnston family as Mickey grows up. The production becomes grittier, darker and ultimately tragic for all involved. The conclusion is heart breaking and I seriously do not know how the cast perform these roles night after night. At the curtain calls all the cast looked emotionally drained and several were openly weeping, the cast were obviously deeply committed to their roles which then transferred to the audience who were utterly swept up in the drama.
The cast were fantastic, there is nothing negative to be said about them, Mrs Johnstone is played by Maureen Nolan she performs this roll amazingly, her voice is powerful and beautiful she sings the songs with such feeling that she makes you laugh or cry with her. Sean Jones, who plays Mickey Johnstone, is superb and incredibly versatile. He is utterly convincing and funny as a grubby, snotty 7 yr old (who is very nearly 8) but then manages to portray a desperate, depressed and tragic adult in such a convincing way you can’t help but believe and feel everything he is going through. Eddie, Mrs Lyons and Linda were all very well played and performed by the cast but the roll of the Narrator played by Kristofer Harding was extraordinary, he has a beautiful and powerful voice and incredible stage presence that your eye is drawn to him where ever he is on stage even if it’s just leaning on a wall, indeed he was quite frightening at times.
The music written by Willy Russell is so powerful and the repeated refrains are incredibly effective at portraying the emotions of the scenes, the whole thing just sweeps you along with it helplessly. Needless to say we had a fantastic night, we laughed and cried and were emotional wrecks by the end but having seen this amazing show twice I’d still go and see it again!
Tickets cost from £13 to £32.50 (plus transaction fee).
For more information or to book tickets click here or call the Box Office on 01274 432000.