Blood Brothers at The Orchard Theatre West

This is 4th time I have reviewed Blood Brothers on here and it is overall possibly the show that I have seen the most, so suffice to say I know it like the back of my hand. It’s also a show that I assume that most people have seen, it ran in the West End from 1988-2012 and has toured pretty much constantly from 1995.

Whilst Blood Brothers is set in Liverpool during the 1960’s through to the 1980’s but the sentiments and themes still have resonance today. It tells the story of the Johnstone twins, separated at birth by a desperate and secret pact between two women. One twin is given away to Mrs Lyons to be brought up in an upper middle class family in the hope that education and money will keep him away from trouble. This is in sharp contrast to Mrs Johnstone who as the birth mother, is keeping one of her twins and is raising her family as a single parent who is constantly fending off debt collectors and desperately trying to keep her boys on the straight and narrow. 

The book by Willy Russell is incredibly strong and its strong narrative, well drawn characters and underlying political themes make it a gripping show that reels the audience in from the opening number and keeps the there throughout the rest of the performance. Willy Russell also wrote the music and lyrics for the show and watching the show last night reminded me just what an underrated score this show has. Whilst ‘Tell Me It’s Not True,’ is a beautifully written and poignant song it is not the only song within the show that ticks these boxes. ‘Miss Jones’ is a clever take on Thatcherite Britain and ‘Long Sunday Afternoon’ cleverly foreshadows the darker themes of Act 2. The show is not all serious and heavy however with a joyful ‘Bright New Day,’ and ‘I’m Not Saying A World,’ is a sweet and simple love song.

Many of the characters go through a huge amount of development throughout the show. Eddie & Mickey start out the show as 7 years old and the show ends when they are in their twenties. Equally Mrs Johnson ages over 20 years throughout the course of the show. This means that there are huge demands on all of these actors to portray the passage of time and the journey that they go on. Sean Jones plays Mickey and interestingly I saw him 7 years ago in the role. As he did back then he Mickey goes from a fun loving cheeky young boy to a troubled and depressed man. I was entirely taken by Jones’ portrayal and I utterly believed that Mickey was 7 when we first met him and equally believed that he was a man beaten by the system by the end. Joe Slight played Eddie, in a wonderful contrast to Jones’ Mickey. Everything from his mannerisms to accent encapsulated their differences.

Niki Colwell Evans played Mrs Johnstone and her vocals really suited the role, she oozed warmth and her vocals were really powerful throughout the show. Scott Anson played the Narrator, the ever watchful presence. I must admit that I would have liked more gravitas from his performance and a stronger, rockier quality to his voice. equally with Mrs Lyons played by Sarah Jane Buckley there were moments that felt overacted and forced.

The set it one that hasn’t changed over the years but the saying of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ could not be more apt here. The simple yet effective set allows us to concentrate on the unfolding of the show rather than be mesmerised with flashing effects and the show is all the better for it.

Looking back at how I summed up my review 8 years ago I thought that despte the time passing I couldnt sum it up any better and funnily enogh any more accuratke so in the words of Sarah circa 2016 – Blood Brothers is a show that every musical lover must see, not only to keep up with the Jones, or the Johnson’s in this case but because it has stood the test of time and repeatedly toured for very good reason. It is a beautifully written show that I wouldn’t be surprised to be reviewing again in 10 years time!

Blood Brothers is on at the Orchard Theatre West until Saturday 6th April. You can find out more about the show and book tickets on their website here.

If you like this review you might also like my article on Who Sang It Better- Tell Me It’s Not True, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tour review and The Wizard of Oz Tour review.

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