Nicola Harvey revisits this theatre classic, this time with her 12 year daughter for company
There’s a good reason why Blood Brothers is touring again in 2018, over 30 years since its premiere in 1987. In fact there are many reasons.
I had seen Blood Brothers before, but it has been 15 years at least so apart from a good idea of the outcome for Eddie and Mickey, and a strong memory of ‘Tell Me it’s Not True’, the powerful final number, I felt I would see it with fresh eyes. And since my companion for the evening was my 12 year old daughter, that made two of us.
For those of you who don’t know Blood Brothers at all, it’s the story of Eddie and Mickey, twins who, due to Mrs Johnstone’s (Lyn Paul is excellent and first played the role in 1997) dire financial outlook and Jennifer Lyon’s desperation to have a baby, are separated as babies. Eddie Lyons grows up in affluence, Mickey Johnstone deals with hunger, a ne’er do well older brother and never having a bike with two wheels.
The story spans several decades and the eponymous leads delighted us with their beautifully physical portrayal of seven year olds growing up in the sixties, catapults, cowboys and Indians and all. Anna is well able to separate dramatic use of rude words to make a point, which is just as well, because there are plenty, including a comic moment where Eddie uses his dictionary to look up some of the “super words” Mickey has taught his best friend.
The two mothers are desperate to keep the boys apart but despite their differences, they keep coming back together and we see the twins grow up to be adults. It is clear from the outset that this won’t end well, and the reminders from the excellent Narrator (played by Mathew Craig) frequently reminded us of this. Along the way, however, there are so many sweet moments of innocence, albeit with a shadow looming.
This is essentially a modern Greek tragedy set in Liverpool. For what it’s worth, the Narrator plays the part of the chorus, letting the audience know in no uncertain terms what lies ahead. And although a tragic downfall is inevitable for our main hero, Mickey, it’s impossible to lose affection for him, especially with the hand he’s been dealt.
It’s a piece which has justifiably stood the test of time and many of the themes are as current now as ever. Anyone who believes that life is just a matter of hard work and effort should at least find themselves pausing for thought and ‘Take a Letter Miss Jones’ resonates particularly.
The satisfyingly large supporting cast are excellent. Whilst the main characters steer carefully away from extreme stereotypes of their characters, I loved the comic relief from the judge and the milkman.
When in my seat in the theatre, I felt uncomfortable at the starkly different and possibly stereotypical portrayal of class differences. Perhaps my discomfort comes from the possibility that this is still a current issue rather than anything dated about the production. Food for thought.
The thing is, in the end, my minor grumbles matter very little. My daughter and I had massed to talk about how Blood Brothers thoroughly deserves its place in musical theatre lovers’ affections. We would thoroughly recommend it.
Blood Brothers runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until 20 January.