On Friday 27th February 2015, I went to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre to watch the much-loved classic musical Blood Brothers.
The story centres around twin brothers Mickey Johnstone and Eddie Lyons, who were split up at birth as their mother, Mrs Johnstone, could not afford to keep both of them and consequently agreed to give one to rich neighbour, Mrs Lyons, who could not have children of her own. Aged seven (or nearly eight!), the two boys meet again and on the realisation that they share the same birthday, they make a pact to become ‘blood brothers’, which ultimately binds them as best friends. We follow the two boys as they grow up, get into trouble, part and fall in love, all of which leads to the show’s intense climax and heartbreaking ending.
Leading lady Maureen Nolan plays the role of the continuously struggling and suffering mother, who wants nothing more than to be able to feed and provide for her beloved children. Nolan portrays the role as a strong, gutsy matriarch who holds a silent vulnerability inside her steely façade. The raw emotion she puts into the role has an extremely powerful effect on the audience, as it radiates out and touches our hearts. At the same time, the small comedy elements of the show are also played out wonderfully by Nolan, as she explores a witty and often sarcastic side to the character; the Entr’acte / Marilyn Monroe 2 was a real highlight of this side to Nolan’s interpretation of the character. The final number of the show, Tell Me It’s Not True, is sung incredibly powerfully by this actress, showing the deep devastation of the grieving mother for not just one but both of her sons of whom’s fate she is blamed of. The first two verses are the peak of the song, as Nolan can barely sing through the tears of the strong emotion she is expressing. As the rest of the cast slowly join in, the number becomes strong, real and a wonderful end to the show.
The role of the Narrator is played by Wet, Wet, Wet singer Marti Pellow. The Narrator is an extremely, cold, bitter and unforgiving character towards all of the others as he goes round cursing each one of them for their actions, whether they intended to do good or evil. Pellow certainly does a fine job of this as he shows not even an ounce of sympathy for any of the characters, to the extent of blaming them for their own actions and actions that were essentially out of their control. His recurring number The Devil’s Got Your Number is performed by him with brilliantly powerful vocals which pair perfectly with the spiteful tone when dictating another’s fate, making him a dislikeable character, with his almost villainous qualities, however, he adds so much of the darkness and edge that makes the show the gritty tragedy it is.
Sean Jones takes on the role of Mickey Johnstone, the son Mrs Johnstone keeps. Similarly to Nolan and Pellow, Jones is no stranger to the musical nor to the role of Mickey, as he has played the character in the West End and for a number of years on the tour. The aspect of Jones’ performance that really stood out was the presence of the character’s vulnerability that he maintained throughout every moment he was on stage. As the comedy character of the show, he did not fail to make the audience laugh, particularly with Mickey’s famous monologue “because I’m only seven but I’m not…I’m nearly eight!” which was delivered with much wit and a lot of charm. In act two, we see a considerable deterioration in Mickey, as he begins to lose control of his life. Jones plays Mickey with this change equally as fantastically as he played the character in the first act. As an audience member, you cannot help but feel sorry for Mickey, as everything good seems to rapidly slip from his grasp and he falls into a depression, which from then sets the musical’s ending in stone.
Mickey’s parted twin and blood brother Eddie Lyons is played by Joel Benedict, who I believe is making his professional debut in the Blood Brothers UK Tour. Eddie is a very wise character, even at the young age of seven, however there is a lingering naivety about him which is conveyed very well by Benedict. His youthful, innocent looks contribute to this image that he builds of the bright, young character,
Every single cast-member was absolutely outstanding and really contributed significantly to the show, however, the cast member who I personally thought was the stand-out of the performance and is highly underrated is Kate Jarman, who plays the role of Mrs Lyons, the posh neighbour of Mrs Johnstone who late adopts Eddie. From the moment she began singing the heart-rending number My Child, I immediately thought to myself “what a stunning voice!” and her acting was also incredible. Having seen the show a few years previously and also having read the play, I have never liked Mrs Lyons, however Jarman played the role slightly differently to how I have previously seen and interpreted it from reading and she made the audience actually feel sorry for the character and sympathise with her. In act two, the scene where she confronts Mrs Johnstone and consequently tried to kill her, Jarman’s Mrs Lyons came across as desperate and extremely anxious to protect her son, not completely evil as I have previously interpreted it. Not only is Kate Jarman a wonderful and talented actress, she is also a lovely person in real-life. After the show, my friend and I met all of the main cast apart from Maureen Nolan (she was with friends and we did not want to interrupt) and although they were all extremely friendly and took the time to sign our programmes and have photographs taken, Kate Jarman was super-lovely. She said to me that I looked cold and subsequently gave me a huge hug and also waited so I could check if the photo came out well.
Willy Russell’s classic Blood Brothers really is a fantastic show that will touch the hearts of each and every audience member and keep them gripped right to the final note of Tell Me It’s Not True. It got a very well-deserved standing ovation and honestly is a must-see musical.