Reviewed by Claire Giles
‘An’ did you never hear how the Johnstones died’ states the narrator in the opening scene and this gives you a feeling of foreboding for the tragic story ahead.
Set in the 1960’s Liverpool, Blood Brothers has been performed for over 30 years but still captivates audiences worldwide. I had never seen Blood Brothers before. After watching it I can understand why the story has held the test of time and people go back to watch it again and again. The plot line, enhanced by the amazing musical score, keeps the audience intrigued right to the very end.
Centred around twin brothers Eddie and Mickey who are separated at birth but somehow fate seems to keep bringing them back together. The twin’s birth mother Mrs Johnstone is already a single mother of seven when she finds out she is pregnant again with twins. Already struggling to survive and with fear of her other children being taken into care she makes a reluctant deal with her employer, childless Mrs Lyons, to give her one of her babies to raise.
Mickey is raised by his mother Mrs Johnstone in poverty along with his older siblings. Eddie is raised in privilege by Mr and Mrs Lyons. Giving the story a real prince and pauper theme. By chance Eddie and Mickey meet as 7 year olds and become best friends and ‘blood brothers’ much to the upset of their mothers. Separated again they meet as teenagers and reforge their bond and grow together. This bond though is tested by the love triangle between Mickey, Eddie and Linda, their childhood friend who has grown with them, which spirals out of control and leads to their tragic downfall.
The story takes you on a whirlwind of emotions from laugh out loud funny to dark and gritty drama.
Overall the cast was outstanding. Watching the older actors playing children at first was quite daunting but they were so in character with their childish speech and behaviour that I soon forgot they actual weren’t children. Alexander Patmore and Joel Benedict were excellent in their portrayal as the brothers, but it was Linzi Hateley as Mrs Johnstone who really stole the show. Her performance as a struggling mother trying to do what was best for her children but hoping for more was performed with such powerful emotion. Her ability to bring forth the different emotions through song was simply outstanding.
Though the tragic ending was forebode from the start it still did not make it any less upsetting when it happened. The true tragedy being that they didn’t even know they were real brothers till the very end. Linzi Hateley as Mrs Johnstone performance of the Tell Me It’s Not True captured a mother’s grief and was heartbreaking to listen to. There was many a tear shed in the audience. I was captivated from the beginning to end and the standing ovation the cast received at the end was fully deserved.
Tickets cost from £21.50 (booking fees may apply).
Blood Brothers is at the Grand Theatre in Leeds from 7-18 May 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.leedsgrandtheatre.com or call the box office on 0844 848 2700.
Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House, 46 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NZ | 0844 848 2700