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REVIEW: Blood Brothers at the Everyman Theatre

REVIEW: Blood Brothers at the Eveyman Theatre

Blood Brothers
Book, music and lyrics by Willy Russell
Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright

The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Rating: ★★★

GCSE Drama
Mock Examination
November 2021
Question 1:

“Blood Brothers is like a bumble bee.  In theory, it shouldn’t fly; in practice, it does.”

Discuss, with reference to a production that you recently attended.
Write your answer in the space below.  Use extension sheets if necessary.
(20 marks)

Our drama teacher, Mr S, is big on theory.  He says Blood Brothers breaks all the rules of musical theatre.  For example, it doesn’t have any “toe-tappers or show-stoppers”.  He reckons Willy Russell should stick to writing words, and leave the music to “stone-cold geniuses” like Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.  But I loved Willy Russell’s songs.  They felt real-lifey, not show-tuney.  And the singing (especially by Lyn Paul, who plays Mrs Johnstone) was awesome!  Anyway, I was humming Tell Me It’s Not True as I went to meet my dad after the show, so I think Mr S is chatting rubbish.

Mr S says that, in theory, great musicals are based on original stories.  Blood Brothers is an adaptation of a story that’s been around for yonks (twins separated at birth), which he says makes Willy Russell a “handler of stolen goods”.  But I read somewhere that Shakespeare nicked loads of stuff from other writers.  So, I think Willy Russell’s in good company.  Also, Blood Brothers is an amazing story.  I was on the edge of my seat – even though I’d read the play in class!

Mr S says he doesn’t like Blood Brothers, because it’s “full of Scousers”, which I think is discriminatory language and should be reported.  Also, it’s like saying you don’t like Cats because it’s full of cats.  Me?  I liked the grittiness of the Liverpool setting in the first half, and the contrast with leafy Skelmersdale in the second.  Mr S says that “Skem” is now a “concrete dump”, and that if I mention this in my essay I’ll get bonus marks for identifying irony.  Anyway, respect to Andy Walmsley for his set design!

Mr S also says that Blood Brothers is too long.  He thinks that modern audiences have pathetic attention spans because of Facebook.  He says that, if Blood Brothers was thirty minutes shorter, it would be thirty times better.  I thought it was maybe a bit long, and I did want to check my phone towards the end, when the character of Mickey was off his meds.  So, I’d give nine-point-five-out-of-ten to co-directors Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright.

Mr S hates actors playing children.  He thinks it’s “self-indulgent”.  But I thought the actors playing children (especially Alexander Patmore as Mickey, and Joel Benedict as Eddie) were brilliant.  They were funny, but really truthful.  And Daniel Taylor played Sammy as the baddest older brother you could ever imagine.  He was proper harsh.

Finally – and Mr S thinks these are his killer points – a successful musical shouldn’t have rhyming monologues, a downbeat narrator (which Robbie Scotcher played broodingly) or a tragic ending.  I think these things just make Blood Brothers different from the sequins-and-feathers musicals that Mr S likes.  Also, it has a judge with a stiffy, which is a bit random.

But do you know what really makes Blood Brothers truly excellent?  It’s got loads of heart.  I was sitting near the front, and I could see that Lyn Paul had tears in her eyes while she was singing Easy Terms.  She also welled up during the closing song, Tell Me It’s Not True.  And so did I.  Man, I was destroyed.  Just think – Lyn Paul has been playing Mrs Johnstone for literally donkeys’ years, and yet she still cried.  We all stood up and clapped and cheered.  You would of too.

Running time: 2 hours 55 minutes (including interval)

Blood Brothers runs at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, until Saturday 20 November 2021.

Reviewer: Paul Sharples
Explore Gloucestershire
17 November 2021

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