Blood Brothers, Edinburgh Playhouse, 2013, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Bill Kenwright by arrangement with Bob Swash
Bob Tomson & Bill Kenwright (directors), Rod Edwards (musical supervisor)
Maureen Nolan (Mrs Johnstone), Sean Jones (Mickey), Mark Hutchison (Eddie), Olivia Sloyan (Linda), Tracy Spenser (Mrs Lyons), Warwick Evans (Narrator)
Running time

If there has been a better production of Blood Brothers in the last 28 years then I would be amazed.

It’s the show that I have seen most, but it never fails to leave me enthralled that a musical set in contemporary Britain has everything.

Willy Russell was at his best when he created this masterpiece of humour, catchy songs, social commentary and a dramatic ending that never fails to startle.

Located in the back streets of Liverpool, the story is about the journey of Mrs Johnstone from carefree girl to downtrodden mum who never stops worrying about her kids. Left alone with lots of hungry mouths to feed and expecting twins, the heroine breaks down when talking to the middle-class woman that she cleans for.

In a despairing moment, she agrees to give away one of the twins to the childless Mrs Lyons (Tracy Spencer) who makes sure Mrs Johnstone sticks to her side of the bargain through playing on an old wives' tale.

The interaction between characters is superb throughout and some of the comedy business is really funny and true to life. Maureen Nolan reprises the main role and her voice reverberates around the theatre as she puts herself and the audience through the emotional wringer.

The brothers, Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Mark Hutchison) are transformed from kids to two very different adults, with the author's exaggerated take on whether it's class that counts in the nurture-versus-nature debate.

Eddie plays the posh boy brilliantly but Mickey is the hero that the audience identifies with as they share his childhood, teenage angst and sadly troubled adulthood. The scenes of them at play and as teenagers are very funny and lifelike.

The brothers are ably supported by their lifelong friend, Linda (Olivia Sloyan). The ever-present narrator (Warwick Evans) provides a dramatic and brooding commentary in song and speech as the scenes move speedily along.

While some musicals are without any memorable songs, in Blood Brothers the cup runneth over.

After almost 30 years, the production’s themes of the haves versus the have-not's, gun crime, depression about redundancy and living on the never, never are all too familiar but wrapped in a production that brought many of the audience to give this excellent cast a standing ovation.

Times: Runs to Saturday 29th June at 7.30pm; Matinees Wed & Sat. at 2.30pm