Reviewed by Siobhan Bridgwater
I went to see Blood Brothers last night with my 12 year old son at Bristol’s majestic Hippodrome theatre. The Hippodrome is in the centre of town. Parking can be a problem, particularly with the current, extensive roadworks going on in the vicinity. We managed to find a space on near-by Park Street. As well as on-street parking, there is also a NCP car park behind the theatre, if you get stuck.
Blood Brothers, directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, is quite a unique show. A simple tale of poverty, class differences, secrets and unbreakable family ties is portrayed with such tenderness it has the hairs on your arms sitting up from the start. It is easy to see why this long-running show has stood the test of time and been such a huge success over the decades.
Narrator (Dean Chisnall) guides us through this tragic tale of Mickey and Eddie, the twins, separated at birth and brought up in very contrasting families. Mickey (Sean Jones) was raised by his natural mother (Lyn Paul), surrounded by his brothers and sisters, without two brass farthings to rub together. Eddie (Mark Hutchinson) was reluctantly given to a rich, childless couple desperate to raise a family of their own. Despite wanting to keep the two apart, the boys are inexplicably drawn to each other when they meet by chance as children. They delighted in each other differences and quickly become the best of friends, vowing to always look out for each other, no matter what. As the years pass, the bond between the unsuspecting brothers continues to grow. Inevitably, their lives follow such different paths, one mirroring the working class struggles of his upbringing whilst the other is dramatically altered by wealth and privilege. But when the two boys fall in love with the same girl (Danielle Corlass), their friendship is brutally ripped apart, forcing their mother to reveal the truth.
It was interesting to note the demographic in the theatre was very different from the normal crowd. Tonight, the theatre was packed with large groups of young people, male and female, and loads of families. The show seems to attract all age groups. It is easy to see why. The clarity at which the tale unfolds makes for a very appealing evening. We know from the opening scene that the boys died at the exact same time. We just don’t know why.
Dean Chisnall is incredible at introducing each scene with his wonderful voice, filled with foreboding and menace. The foolish pact, made in haste, which cannot be undone. It is a decision which will inevitably lead to unimaginable tragedy. Lyn Paul is simply remarkable. Playing Mrs Johnstone from a carefree girl, full of dreams, through to the mother of grown up children, burdened with the sadness and regret of her earlier choices, is done to perfection. She lights the stage with her presence and effortless appeal. Sean Jones (Mickey), Mark Hutchinson (Eddie) and Alison Crawford (Linda) are brilliant at grasping the innocent abandon of childhood through to the emotional tortures of their adult life. Adam Search, as the bullish big brother Eddie and Sarah Jane Buckley as the desperate Mrs Lyons, determined to keep his son’s true identity a secret at all costs, help to add drama and tension to the sorry tale. These key players are well supported by a very talented ensemble, who each play a number of smaller parts. The creative team produce stunning sets and lighting effects to perfectly capture the mood on the grim estates of Liverpool in the Sixties.
The script is witty, and fun, and heartbreakingly sad.
Tickets cost from £17.90 to £47.90 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Blood Brothers is at the Bristol Hippodrome from 11-22 April 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/bristol or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.
Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012