Blood Brothers, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton - review
It started out as a schools play which grew into a full-blown musical and has been a hit for more than 30 years.
And Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers still draws the crowds, with an all-but capacity crowd filling Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre last night for the first show in a six-night run.
As the set emerges with its twinkling lights shining through the Liverpool cityscape a grim spectacle unfolds, and we know the end will not be a happy one. But we’ll enjoy getting there.
The narrator, played by Matthew Craig sets the scene, and remains a lurking, ominous presence throughout watching from the side lines, like a smartly-suited spectre.
The tale of twins, separated at birth, throws up classic themes of class, nature versus nurture, the role of strong women and the power of superstition and guilt.
With her superb voice, Lyn Paul gives a wonderful performance as the impoverished mother Mrs Johnston, whose indomitable spirit is buffeted by misfortune.
In counterpoint there’s Mrs Lyons whose privileged life becomes undercut by a desperate need to have and to keep a child. Sarah Jane Buckley plays her beautifully, particularly charting her shift into guilt-fuelled paranoia.
Mark Hutchinson’s Eddie, the son brought up on the right side of the tracks, is a gentle soul, in stark contrast to his boisterous twin Mickey, played initially with energy and vigour by Sean Jones, before his slow slide further down the wrong side of the tracks. His slightly twitchy, drug-dependent form resonates through the later scenes.
As the boys lives evolve another strong female has her part to play in the form of Linda, who Danielle Corlass subtly transforms from confident teenager to yet another creature being crushed by life’s bitter blows.
The superb score lifts the audience to a high, especially with Bright New Day while the resolutely upbeat yet wistful Marilyn Monroe echoes through show, taking on an increasing melancholy air.
But there is a special power which is unleashed in the ensemble pieces, including Take a Letter Miss Jones and of course the moving and yet rousing Tell Me it’s Not True, which as tradition dictates prompted the crowd, quite rightly, to get to their feet for a standing ovation.
As befits a show which started out in schools, a significant proportion of the audience were teenagers – no doubt studying the play for GCSE.
But what may have started out as an enforced trip seemed to have turned out, for those we heard as we were leaving, to have been an absolute treat.
And no doubt its powerful themes coupled with the poignant portrayals will stay with them as it has with audiences for more than 30 years.
Blood Brothers is on until Saturday.