King's Theatre, Glasgow
Blood Brothers is one of life's rare guarantees when it comes to the regional touring circuit. Wherever it goes, full houses seem to follow and last night's crowded King's Theatre in Glasgow was no exception to the rule.
Fast approaching its 30th anniversary, the tragic tale of two brothers, separated at birth with their fates forever intertwined has lasting appeal with audiences. The themes of the show are universal and a number of the songs have particular poignancy in today's economic climate. Easy Terms and Miss Jones are all too familiar in double-dip recession Britain in 2012. It might not be a catalogue that people are ordering from and it's more likely to be a flat screen TV than a table but the struggle to keep afloat and pressure to keep up with the Jones’s is as true today as in its 60s / 70s setting.
Maureen Nolan plays Mrs Johnstone, the mother forced to make a choice no one should have to. She captures the youthful aspiration and vigour of Mrs Johnstone and creates a force to be reckoned with. Her heart-breaking rendition of Tell Me It’s Not True is emotionally exhausting and would benefit from a lengthier blackout to allow the audience to absorb the finality and emotion before the curtain call. Nolan must be emotionally wrung out at the end of every performance.
While Marti Pellow, who plays the Narrator, is on the poster outside the theatre, the true stars of any production of Blood Brothers are the ill-fated twins Mickey and Eddie along with Linda, the girl caught in the middle. Sean Jones’s, seven year old (but nearly eight) Mickey effervesces with energy, exuding the enthusiasm for life and the limitless potential that only a child can view in everything. His boundless portrayal of young Mickey makes the broken adult in the latter stages of Act Two difficult viewing. Jones works hard to ensure that this stark contrast between the child and adult is heart-wrenching to watch.
Matthew Collyer embraces the wide-eyed innocence of Eddie and his honest admiration of his blood brother Mickey ensures the credibility of the two best friends. Collyer hits the mark and avoids insensitivity through subtle character choices that convey the simple fact that Eddie has no real life experience, especially when it comes to poverty and living on the breadline. Jones and Collyer create a credible, lovable duo whose solid friendship is admirable. As Linda, Kelly-Anne Gower radiates the same enthusiasm as Mickey and as she becomes stuck in a catch 22 situation it's impossible not to feel for her predicament.
The collective cast work extremely hard to take the audience on the journey from youthful enthusiasm to a dark, hopeless future. They are energetic and bring the tragic story to life superbly. However, in the 16 years that have passed since I first saw Blood Brothers it appears very little has changed in the production. The poignancy and emotion of the tragic story remains but the production is beginning to show its age. While I agree to an extent with some of Bill Kenwright's comments in the programme (in an article dated circa 2008) about not tampering with something that is successful as it is, theatre has evolved considerably since Blood Brothers first appeared on the scene and some progression could have occurred.
Even the great Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber has developed Cats, Starlight Express and Jesus Christ Superstar beyond their original incarnations and by comparison Blood Brothers seems trapped in a nostalgia loaded time warp oblivious to the ever-adapting and changing theatrical scene.
3 out of 5 stars ✭✭✭
Review by Lisa Davidson
Blood Brothers runs until Saturday 14th July at King's Theatre, Glasgow