Theatre Review: Blood Brothers - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭✭

 Review by Ellen Cree 

So, did y’hear the story of the Johnstone twins? You’ll never forget Blood Brothers after seeing this gripping musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse!

After seeing a fantastic performance of Blood Brothers back in 2009 on a school trip with the Drama department, I had very high expectations for this production, and I can definitely say that my expectations were succeeded!

Set in Liverpool and narrated by Kristofer Harding, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers tells the story of Mrs. Johnstone (Lyn Paul) who finds herself pregnant with twin boys after her husband walks out on her and her seven other children. While confiding with her wealthy employer Mrs. Lyons (Paula Tappenden), Mrs. Johnstone speaks about how she can not afford to raise for two new children. Mrs. Lyons, who is unable to have children, makes a pact with Mrs. Johnstone stating that she will be receive one of the twins and bring him up as her own, unknown to her husband (Tim Churchill) that he is not their birth child. The deal follows through and the pair are raised separately with in contrasting back grounds. Mickey Johnstone (Sean Jones) is a wild boy who enjoys playing on the streets with other children including his boisterous older brother Sammy (Peter Washington) and friend, the sweet Linda (Danielle Corlass). His family is poor, but they get by. On the other hand Edward ‘Eddie’ Lyons (Joel Benedict) is an angelic, well mannered but lonely single child who longs for a friend. Unaware of who the other really is, the twins meet by chance one day and despite their differences, they instantly bond and the pair decide to be become blood brothers, which also means they have to stand by each other always, no matter what. However, as the threesome take on adulthood, their personalities and relationships alter and fate intervenes to create an unfortunate end for the Johnstone Twins.

The aspect of Blood Brothers that stands out the most is that the adult performers not only play the grown up versions of their characters, but they also play them as children. This fantastically contributes to the comedy aspect of the show, because naturally, a group of adults playing Cowboys and Indians is hilarious, as is an adult in character having a child-like strop and argument with another performer playing their parent. Sean Jones, Joel Benedict, Danielle Corlass and Peter Washington all beautifully conveyed their childhood charm and innocence in their performances as well as the transition into adulthood. Jones in particular magnificently portrays Mickey, make your heart wrench as you witness the once carefree child grow up and have his adult life spiral downwards. Kristofer Harding, who plays the narrator, has a stunning, captivating voice which carries the show along with ‘the ultimate Mrs Johnstone’, the incredible Lyn Paul, who perfectly captured the admirable and loving mother figure. 

The story not only explores the essence of childhood and teenage emotions, but it also deals with addiction and mental illness in such a striking way, which with see your emotions take sudden unforeseen changes. Complemented with captivating music, an impressive set and incredibly talented ensemble cast with insane voices, Blood Brothers can not be missed. The musical will have you in fits of laughter in the first act, and in tears the second act. The story of The Johnstone Twins is not one to be missed. You’ll be left feeling a genuine, personal connection to the characters and you’ll feel as though by the end that you are leaving friends. So, steal a ticket if you have to. Just make sure you see it before it is too late. 

Blood Brothers is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 13th February. For tickets and information visit ATG Tickets.