The Lowry, Salford
There is no doubting that there is still an appetite for this much loved Willy Russell musical which remains incredibly popular despite being over 25 years old. Still packing out the large auditorium at the Lowry, Bill Kenwright's touring production receives a rapturous welcome on an autumnal evening; not too far from the City where this show is based.
Mrs Johnstone (Maureen Nolan) has a knack for having children and when she finds out she is pregnant with twins despite already having a number of children and no husband; she strikes a deal with her employer, Mrs Lyons to give one away to her as she cannot have children.
A deal born out of poverty and a life on the never-never, Mrs Johnstone thinks she is doing the right thing and giving one twin up to live in a large house with wealthy parents but inevitably, the future is not that simple. Separated at birth but destined to meet and be friends for life, there is bound to be a price to pay.
Russell's tale is considered a classic and although in some ways now quite dated, it still packs a punch and the emotional tension builds to a crescendo that still moves audiences to tears and can leave the audience emotionally exhausted. The dialogue is very witty and while Merseyside is central to the story, the dialogue is not so regional as to alienate those less familiar with dialect.
Unfortunately, this evening's performance suffered from a poor sound mix at times with the band often drowning out the narrator (Warwick Evans) whose role is vital for the success of the story telling and the building of the tension.
At times the ensemble is indistinguishable from each other large parts of the number ‘Kids Game' very difficult to decipher. There are a few diction issues also which affected the ebb and flow of the piece. Nolan's Mrs Johnstone comes across as one dimensional and does not fully capture the emotional anguish the character experiences on giving away one son.
Sean Jones as Mickey gives an accomplished performance from an actor experienced in this role. He is well supported by Mark Hutchinson as Eddie who is also experienced in the role having played Eddie in the West End and on tour in the UK and internationally.
The pair create the brotherly bond well and show the evolution of both characters with great flair and believability. The staging is a little lack lustre and some elements of the set are too basic such as the depiction of the Lyons' family's new house in the country.
Blood Brothers still has a story to tell and while it captures the hearts of many; it could do with some TLC. More could be done to help the show shine and reach its past potential rather than leaving it all to the cast and relying largely on the strength of Willy Russell's fine work.
- Ruth Lovett