Wednesday, 10 April 2019

REVIEW: Blood Brothers - The Lowry Theatre, Salford

So have you ever heard the story of the Johnstone twins? I think most of us have had this timeless classic enter our lives and pierce our hearts at some point. Now that the play is part of the secondary schools national curriculum for English, those who haven’t even entered a theatre auditorium before will eventually come across Willy Russell’s masterpiece. It was refreshing to see so many young faces in the audience, as I myself first saw the show in 1983 at age 14 and judging by the fact there was not a dry eye in the house, these young people enjoyed it just as much as I did at their age.

Blood Brothers is the story of twins separated at birth who due to opposing social class are awarded very different opportunities in life, and despite starting life from the same womb end up in polar opposite circumstances. The play perfectly showcases the juxtaposing attitudes towards each boy as well as the persistent undertone that money breeds chances. Another aspect of the play is the love triangle between the two boys and childhood friend Linda (Dannielle Corlass), who eventually “pays the price of just being there”. The twins are constantly reunited through multiple twists of fate yet always haunted by their mother's sinister pact.

Tonight at the packed Lowry Theatre this stunning and relatable story opened for its 5 day run in Salford as part of the 2019 UK tour. I first saw this musical over three and a half decades ago when the original cast starring Barbara Dickson at the Lyric Theatre in London first debuted it. The show blew me away then and it has continued to blow me away every time I have seen it (and trust me that is a lot). Tonight’s casting was a mix of old faces and new and as a result made the show fresh and yet still familiar. The set and script has been identical over the decades and personally I think this is a clever decision as both are timeless. As the saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The staging is simple yet effective helping not to distract from the stunning performers of this show. The script is full of poignant lines that still resonate to this day.

Mickey, played by the very talented Alexander Patmore, was perfect in this role with his blood brother Eddie, Joel Benedict, his exceptional on stage other half. The chemistry between these two performers was endearing and the youthful nature they brought to the play made the childhood scenes more heart-warming and the finale more heart-wrenching. I have to admit I was dubious about Patmore’s rendition of Mickey as I loved previous long-standing Mickey, Sean Jones, who played the part for 15 years. However, those boots were filled tremendously well so well done to Alexander Patmore for that.

Daniel Taylor has played Sammy for at least a decade and I would label him as theatre's real Peter Pan as he never seems to age and continues to portray the 10 year old troublemaker at the start of the show perfectly.

Paula Tappenden’s representation of Mrs Lyons was insanely good as her decline into madness was so believable and well played. Notably, Tappenden is the understudy for Mrs Johnstone, which is a very different character with a very different dialect; this showcases great versatility in her as a performer if needed.

Linzi Hateleys performance was absolutely sublime as she played the Liverpool mum with such heartfelt love for her brood. Her vocals were pitch-perfect evoking goose bumps with every song, which is a true testimony to a great voice.

Interestingly the narrator’s (played by Robbie Scotcher) dialogue was delivered at a much slower pace than I’ve seen before and for some this may have worked in making his presence more menacing and distressing, but for me I found this didn’t work.

All in all this wonderful musical and its well cast performers delivered an outstanding performance tonight; resulting in a rapturous applause and a very well deserved standing ovation.

Reviewer - Victoria Wilmott
on - 9/4/19

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