Separated at birth, divided by wealth and class, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers are familiar to many. It’s a famous theatrical example of the nature vs nurture narrative, following two young twins – one “sold” and raised surrounded by wealth, the other remaining in a squat with his numerous siblings and going hungry. Linked at birth, the division will not separate their inevitable fate. Violence, love, family and friendship shall follow the two, regardless of attempts to separate them.
The transition by Sean Jones from the wild young Mickey into the disheartening sedation of adult life is poignant. He exudes an energy that sends laughter rippling around the theatre, only to be silenced in the closing moments by how far Mickey has been crippled. Jones is offset by Mark Hutchinson as fraternal twin Eddie. Hutchinson performs the sheltered Eddie well enough, the conflict with his blood brother’s mannerisms evident. Vocally a star shines in the shadows. Mathew Craig as the Narrator brings a slither of the otherworldly to the production. Ever-present, his base in reality is always questioned.
Referred to as the “definitive Mrs. J” the audience is in the company of the tremendous talents of Lyn Paul, the essence of Mrs Johnstone. Paul’s maternal responsiveness eases us in. If by the end of this evening, there is not but a faint mist in your eye, Paul’s rendition of Tell Me it’s Not True should draw it out. Combining vocal talents with her character, Paul offers an excellently human performance. Alongside Danielle Corlass as Linda, both cast members cut across the masculinity onstage. Their roles are pivotal and intense.
Adam Walmsley’s stage design is effective, and the lighting can also be intense, often used well to conceal within the shadows, thought it is never used to full effect.
Though created in 1983, Blood Brothers certainly has longevity, and its themes are timeless. Its commentary on class is still as cutting for the first, second or ninth viewing. With members of the West End’s closing ‘dream cast’, this touring production is insightful and marvellously performed.