In a week that has seen the announcement that the West End musical Blood Brothers is to close after more than 20 years, the talented youngsters from West End Experience are performing the show as it was originally written, as a play. Willy Russell was originally commissioned to write the play for Merseyside Young People’s Theatre Company in 1981. He then re-wrote it in 1982 and, the following year, it was first performed in its, now world famous, musical version.
The strength and success of Blood Brothers has always been its very emotive storyline and, without the musical distractions, the power of Russell’s script comes blasting through. Emotion pours from each and every one of this young and amazingly talented cast, last seen in their five star Brighton Fringe performance of Growing Pains.
Bailey Pilbeam, as one of the tallest members of the cast, is able to convey the menacing nature of his character, The Narrator, incredibly well. He almost spits out his dialogue and fires Russell’s words right to the heart of the audience with his almost constant presence racking up the tension of the piece.
Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons are both played supremely well by Louisa Adams and Pippa Sa-Hutchings. Adams is more than believable as the stressed out mother with a heart of gold and Sa-Hutchings delivers the most amazing transformation as she decends into her paranoia.
The role of Linda is taken by 16 year old Faye Maclean, who grows from trouble-making child to teenage vamp and on to troubled wife and mother before our very eyes. She acts well beyond her years and, in the very emotional final scene, proves that she can scream as well as anyone. Jack Adams makes his debut with the company by taking on the triple role of Milkman, Doctor and Policeman with his dual personality as the latter, earthy in the Johnstone house and almost fatherly in the Lyons house, a superb achievement.
The storyline of the play, particularly in Act Two, is quite different from the musical and the various twists and turns that lead the twins to their, unbelievably emotional, final scene had many in the audience somewhat surprised, especially as it is not Mickey who pulls the final, fatal, trigger.
Matthew Pearse, who stars as Eddie Lyons, is wonderfully posh, hopelessly naïve and, in his scenes with Linda towards the end of the show, incredibly tender. He has obviously learned a great deal from his co-directors Craig Whiteley, who has played that part in the West End and on tour, and Rebekah Whiteley, who has also performed in the West End musical version as Mrs Lyons and Donna-Marie.
In the role of Mickey is a young man who, I am convinced, has a West End career just waiting for him. 14 year old Declan Mason is one of life’s natural actors. He is incredibly confident on stage, performs like any of the best professionals and delivers his emotionally fragile and dramatically demanding performance with consummate ease.
West End Experience has a tremendous reputation for nurturing some of the best teenage talent in the South East and this production goes a very long way to reinforce that well deserved status.