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Blood Brothers at the White Rock Theatre

Willy Russell’s classic musical play about rivalry and misunderstanding, nature and nurture, a gun and a girl, is on at the White Rock Theatre until Saturday 8 April. The play has been nationally and internationally successful for decades. One production achieved the rare feat of 10,000 performances in the West End of London. Russell, whose other works include Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, can clearly reach audiences.  Bernard McGinley reviews the show. All photos by Jack Merriman.

From Cain and Abel and (twins) Jacob and Esau in the Bible, to Noel and Liam of Oasis and Princes Harry and William, brothers regularly don’t have the most fraternal of relationships. Willy Russell’s musical play explores their tensions and destinies, amid a flux of other pressures. (Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, 1881, is perhaps another influence.)

Mickey and Eddie, the blood brothers of the title, are actual brothers, twins but raised separately. Reunited and bonded but rivalrous, their development has the remorseless logic of a Greek tragedy. The story however does not lack humour or lightness.

Niki Colwell Evans (Mrs Johnstone), and Nick Wilkes (Policeman and Teacher)

Niki Colwell Evans leads an excellent hardworking cast as Mrs Johnstone, with Sean Jones and Joe Sleight as the Johnstone twins. Richard Munday adds astute commentary as the Narrator.

The show’s memorable songs include Bright New Day, Shoes on the Table, Marilyn Monroe, and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True. Class and money also feature, as when Mrs Johnstone reflects on hardship in Easy Terms:

Sean Jones as Mickey and Joel Benedict as EddieOnly mine until
The time comes round

To pay the bill.
Then, I’m afraid,
What can’t be paid
Must be returned.
You never, ever learn,
That nothing’s yours,
On easy terms.

The musical layering and reprising is effective in building the momentum of an emotionally charged melodrama, well acted.

Much garlanded, Blood Brothers has been packing audiences in for 40 years.  It’s an impressive production and worth seeing. (It runs from 7:30 p.m. to 10:20, with an interval.)  

Brotherly feuds are surprisingly common. The global rivalry of Adidas v Puma was caused by two brothers. Earlier this month TV presenter Paul Schofield announced that he didn’t have a brother. It’s not that simple. This thoughtful and exuberant musical entertainment helps us understand why.

Did you hear the tale of the Johnstone twins, 
As like each other as two new pins? 
Of one womb born on the self-same day, 
How one was kept and one given away.

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Posted 16:52 Thursday, Apr 6, 2023 In: Performance

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