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Blood Brothers

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Add a few perms and shellsuits and you’ll think your back in the ’80s with this overblown recreation of a tired musical

Image of Blood Brothers

@ Edinburgh Playhouse, until Sat 13 Feb 2016

This production of the insanely popular musical certainly looks and sounds the part: it’s the tragic tale of two twin brothers who are separated at birth in 1960s Liverpool. Whilst becoming friends as youngsters, despite the class differences, they meet a tragic end as adults. There’s a fantastic role for the actress who manages to get her hands on the part of the birth mother; Spice Girl Mel C astounded everyone a few years back by bagging an Olivier nomination for the said role. In this production, Lyn Paul is the woman torn by having to give one of her boys away. Paul is perhaps a bit older than might be expected, but her vocal talents and dedication to the role make her performance the highlight of the show, and will certainly cause many a tear amongst the audience.

There is a standing ovation by an overwhelming majority of the auditorium when the show comes to end, which, by all regards, is a bit of a surprise; this production, whilst no doubt faithful to Willy Russell‘s original, seems terribly twee and dated. The ‘80s style music throughout is so overwhelmingly brash, it causes the story to become more ridiculous as events play out. Whilst the power ballads are often performed with gusto, the underlying musical score often sounds like a reject for a cheesy ‘80s horror movie. There is a lack of subtlety to proceedings that makes the entire story become farcical. So many dramatic glances are thrown around the stage that you could almost make a drinking game out of it. The whole production begins to feel like an episode of Eastenders circa 1988. The performances are fine but whilst Sean Jones has fun as the younger Mickey, when his character goes on a downfall in later life he seems to be channelling a bad Tom Hardy impression that is not reminiscent of anything he had done with the character beforehand.

There’s a nostalgia factor here, not just in the accurate recreation of an era, but in that this production feels like it would have been performed exactly the same way thirty years ago. To this end, this production will please its fans but will struggle to entertain any newcomers.

Comments

8 Responses to Blood Brothers

  1. Mary ballantyne says:

    Totally disagree it was a Fantastic production all characters played there rolls brilliantly. I agree lyn Paul was a great choice for the roll being older gave a more rounded and moving performance as Mrs J.Mickey was also brilliant in his roll as the other twin he made you laugh at his childish antics and cry as an older down and out on his luck and his breakdown played so well.Not to be missed brilliant musical drama.

  2. Lauren Dowell says:

    Fortunate enough to see the production at Richmond a few weeks ago. I disagree with your review. 1st class performance by an amazing cast. Hooked from the prologue to the highly emotional final scene. Narrator was superb. I found Mickey’s breakdown so moving; shed tears. I recommend Blood Brothers to any lover of great theatre.

  3. David Pitts says:

    What a lot of tosh.
    As a newcomer to this production, seen a couple of weeks ago in Peterborough, I thought it was outstanding. Simon Cowell would be saying, listen to the audience, standing ovations every night around the country.
    The paying public are the judges, not FOC journalists!

  4. You are all very welcome to disagree. Glad you’ve taken the time to comment. The paying public are indeed judges, but so are we “FOC journalists”!!! Plenty of popular hits are disliked by critics and vice versa. As I said to someone on Twitter, at least it shows musical theatre is in rude health when people get worked up in a show’s defence.
    [Robert, Managing Editor]

  5. Terry Johnson says:

    Caught this production several weeks ago in Richmond. It was actually quiet stunning. I believe your review was a bit one one dimensional, if not pompous. The musical was actually written over 25 years ago so one would expect it to be of its time. I suspect this reviewer would find Shakespeare “quite dated…” as well. That aside, audiences throughout Britain continue to be enthralled with Blood Brothers and THIS production. Lyn Paul and Sean Jones have captured their roles as no one else ever. Theatre lovers — see this production as the best in its genre.

  6. Two things here. Stewart acknowledges this is a musical from a particular era. His argument is that “this production feels like it would have been performed exactly the same way thirty years ago”. It’s not the musical itself, but the production that he is questioning. That would be a perfectly legitimate critique to make of Shakespeare too. Secondly, he concurs with you – “this production will please its fans”. He just begs to differ.

  7. Stewart’s missed all the twitter chat about this, but I’ve been keeping him posted that people disagree with the review. Here’s what he said: “I’m definitely not the only one who felt that way about the production though, my partner is a high school drama teacher and he teaches the play in schools, he thought the whole production was heavy handed as well. I know an elderly couple who went to see it and they said it was boring, the woman fell asleep in the auditorium.”

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