Blood Brothers – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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blood brothers review bradford alhambra 2017 october

Blood Brothers – Review

Bradford Alhambra, October 2017

by Sandra Callard

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers has been thrilling theatregoers for over 30 years. The story is simple and down-to-earth, and is not a new concept. The fascination we have with twins who are separated at birth, and the debate on which takes precedence, nature or nurture, is never-ending, but it is Willy Russell’s treatment of this theme that makes for outstanding theatre.

Mrs Johnstone, a Liverpool housewife with a large and growing family, finds she is pregnant once more as her feckless husband deserts her. Her struggle to make ends meet is valiant, but when she gives birth to twin boys her ingenuity fails, and, in despair, she agrees to let one twin go to the wealthy but childless woman whose house she cleans.

blood brothers review bradford alhambra 2017 october Lyn Paul

“Whole new level of emotion”

Mrs Johnstone is played with heart-breaking reality by Lyn Paul, who has reprised the role many times over the last 20 years. The role has been played well by many well-known singers, but Lyn Paul brings a maturity and conviction to Mrs Johnstone that is wholly believable. She is a good singer, but brings the show’s anthem ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ to a whole new level of emotion. She is tremendous and it is not surprising that she has been voted the definitive Mrs Johnstone.

The songs, of course, are an integral part of the show, with each one adding to our understanding of the feelings of the characters. Mrs Johnstone’s opening song, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ is both funny and touching, as is her optimistic ‘Bright New Day’.\

The joy of children playing, from whatever background, is brought out in ‘Kids Games’, and, of course, the wonderful ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ is difficult to hear without shedding a tear.

blood brothers review bradford alhambra 2017 october Sean Jones (Mickey) & Simon Willmont (Eddie)


The show has a narrator, whose part becomes progressively more important. Spoken and sung by Dean Chisnall, he is in every scene, watching the story and guiding the audience towards its inexorable conclusion. Chisnall plays the narrator perfectly, never intruding but always on the sidelines adding humour, warning or fear when necessary.

Mickey and Eddie, played by Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson, are superb as the separated twins, and are perfect in their initial roles as adults playing children. Jones as Mickey is hilarious and totally child-like as the ruffian from the wrong side of town, and is perfectly complemented by Hutchinson as the posh boy who has wandered into another world. When they meet later as adults their original personalities are still intact.

blood brothers review bradford alhambra 2017 october cast

“Perfectly crafted”

The sets are simple but realistic, using the modern accepted method of sliding pieces representative of the story quickly and easily, using the cast to manouvre them into place. This keeps the story flowing with the minimum of interruption and is extremely effective.

I have seen many Blood Brothers productions over the years, always good, but this production is massively impressive. The performances are superb, the interpretations perfectly crafted, and the songs beautifully sung. The actors are flawlessly cast and the writing is of a standard that every author would aspire to.

This is Willy Russell’s masterpiece, and is a sadness, a joy and an exhilaration to behold.

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