Blood Brothers Review: A polished production

By March 30, 2016


Blood Brothers - Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone %28previous cast production%29

Images courtesy of Leeds Grand Theatre

Blood Brothers by Willy Russell is my all-time favourite musical. It blends comedy with an extremely serious subject and there’s even some great tunes to sing along to. It’s the perfect show for both musical lovers and musical newbies.

Blood Brothers - Sign of the TimesThe play follows the lives of separated twins Mickey and Eddie. As Eddie grows up with his adopted parents, Mr and Mrs Lyons, he is open to a world of opportunity and eventually lands himself a good job after attending University. Things are a little different for poor Mickey, who stays at home with his biological mother Mrs Johnstone and his other brothers and sisters. Times are hard, and through a series of unfortunate events he ends up in prison – and facing the world after that is an even bigger challenge for him.

This rather sombre tale is brought to the audience in a feel-good flurry of musical numbers and plenty of laughs. The Narrator lingers, serving as a shadowy reminder that separating the two boys at birth will no doubt come back to haunt the characters.

The cast are strong in this latest production of Blood Brothers, though the general “vibe” seems to be rather understated. Kristofer Harding plays the Narrator almost mischievously, which takes away some of the menacing impact. Some of the jokes are lost as the cast seem to throw them away, though the funniest section by far is when Mickey, Eddie and Linda are children. This shows the best acting from all three actors: Sean Jones, Joel Benedict and Danielle Corlass. Joel Benedict, who plays Eddie, is both believable and hilarious, and brings a lovely vulnerability to the role.

Blood Brothers - Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone %28previous cast production%29 %282%29The problem, for me, is that Blood Brothers relies so heavily on the audience falling in love with the characters. The writing does most of the job, but the cast need to make the characters important enough to the audience for the end scene to matter at all. Unfortunately Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone just doesn’t bring that likeability to the role, and this impacts how much I care about the other characters. Her accent is almost as well-spoken as Sarah Hay’s Mrs Lyons, and this means that the contrast between the two women and their lifestyles is minimised to almost nothing. I just couldn’t believe for a second that Lyn Paul was a middle-aged mother driven by financial desperation to give away one of her babies. She doesn’t even seem that bothered when she does it. The end scene shows the most passion from Mrs Johnstone, but it was a little too late for me to buy into it at that point.

The cast are strong singers, actors and performers, and if you haven’t seen the musical before I’d definitely recommend giving it a go while it’s still on at Leeds Grand Theatre (until 2nd April.)

Review by Sophie Joelle