Blood Brothers, now showing at the Theatre Royal in Bath, is superb entertainment. From the beginning it has the audience laughing at the wry comedy and quick one-liners flying around – what clever use of language by Willy Russell – but by the end you are crying. Not many shows can take you from one extreme of emotion to the other quite so seamlessly.
For those who may not know it, the show tells the story of the Johnstone twins born in Liverpool somewhere in the 1950’s. Their mother, beautifully played by Maureen Nolan, already has several children, no money and her husband has just walked out on them. She doesn’t know how she’s going to cope.
She tells all this to the lady she cleans for – Mrs Lyons, played by Paula Tappenden who lives in a big house with her husband but cannot have children although she desperately wants them. She suggests to Mrs Johnstone that when the babies are born, she takes one of them and passes it off as her own. Her husband played by Tim Churchill is away and will return just after the babies are born so will never know that the child is not his. Reluctantly Mrs Johnstone agrees.
Mrs Lyons is adamant that the two boys should never meet, but fate is too strong and the two meet and become “Blood Brothers” – they have no idea that they are really brothers. We watch the children growing up and there are some delightful scenes between the two boys – Mickey played by Sean Jones and Eddie played by Mark Hutchinson. The two, acting as children, along with their best friend Linda played by Olivia Sloyan are completely believable, and very funny at times.
Marti Pellow, who plays the Narrator, is excellent, keeping the plot moving along, and even manages a good attempt at a Liverpool accent!
The story is very poignant, and the cast are brilliant. They well deserve the standing ovation they gain at the end of the show.
The music and lyrics, also written by Russell, is both infectious and moving, from the catchy “Marilyn Monroe” to the lively and hopeful “Bright New Day” and the haunting “Tell Me It’s Not True”. The songs are beautifully accompanied by the musicians led by musical director Kelvin Towse.
The set, designed by Andy Walmsely is fantastic – capturing the spirit of the back streets of Liverpool and contrasting it with the big house owned by Mr & Mrs Lyons. The lighting designed by Mark Howett is excellent and enhances the feel and flavour to the scenes.
The whole is skillfully directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, and they seem to have got all the ingredients together to create a memorable show.