Blood Brothers – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Sandra Callard, October 2021
Blood Brothers has been pounding the nation’s stages since 1983. Willy Russell’s overpowering play has already reached awesome proportions in theatrical circles where it is widely revered and loved. It raises its monumental head at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford to a packed audience, buzzing with excitement, as its iconic theme song, ‘Tell Me it’s Not True’ is quietly played.
The story opens with Mrs Johnstone, bravely coping with her large family, lack of husband and empty purse. The stage is full of her children, who never for one moment seem out of place, even though they are all played by adults. Mrs Johnstone is once again played by Lyn Paul. She has made the role her own since 1997 and is rightly considered the definitive Mrs Johnstone. She is brilliant in the role, tough and loving as she struggles for survival, but this is her farewell tour – she will be a tough act to follow.
“Funny and moving”
The play follows the lives of the Johnstone family, always poor and on the fringes of the law. Mrs Johnstone finds herself pregnant once more, just as her husband finally leaves her and, as a final blow, she is expecting twins. Her wealthy, childless employer asks her to give one of the twins to her, and in her extreme poverty she agrees. The story that follows is startling, funny and moving. The fact that the majority of the packed theatre know the full story of the play has no effect on the ending. We still cry, and the beautiful song that plays alongside it is the most apt of any I have heard in theatre, and among the most moving.
The stage furniture is much the same as it has always been, simply because it is so right, and the small touches indicating the Johnstones’ poverty are relevant to their situation. The two actors who play the twins are not simply good, they are perfect. Alexander Patmore plays Mickey, the daft, lovely, happy twin, whose actions mimic a child beautifully, and the posh one who was given away, Eddie, is wonderfully played by Joel Benedict. He is so appealing as he feels a strange pull to his origins when he meets Micky. The two of them are wonderful together.
There isn’t a bad performance in the play, as the audience sways between laughter and sadness. Danielle Corlass as the faihful Linda is outstanding. So too is the Narrator, Robbie Scotcher, as he slowly moves on the edges of the stage with his discerning observations. This is a classic play in motion, and this whole performance at the Alhambra verges on perfection – a rare but wonderful thing to see in theatre.
Blood Brothers has reached every corner of the Globe, and this production is in no way a laboured or contrived one. It feels as new and fresh as the day it was first produced and is doubtless one of the glories of British theatre.
Images taken from a previous production