REVIEW: Blood Brothers, Liverpool Empire, 29 Oct 2013

Willy Russell’s
multi award winning play ‘Blood Brothers’ has returned to the Liverpool Empire once again and stars Maureen Nolan and Warwick Evans. Our keen theatre reviewer Stephanie Harrison couldn’t wait to see one of Liverpool’s most memorable plays…

I was excited to see Blood Brothers in Liverpool, I knew the atmosphere would be electric as we watched the story of Mrs Johnstone’s twins play out to a home crowd. And I was not disappointed!

For those who don’t know the story, Mrs Johnstone is down on her luck with too many children and two more on the way. She works for the wealthy Mrs Lyons who cannot have children of her own. A pact is made for Mrs Lyons to keep one of the twins, separating them at birth, a pact the devil is not too happy about! Inevitably the boys meet and become friends without ever knowing their two identities and though they remain friends their upbringings lead them down very different paths. The class system divides them, superstition is rife throughout the show – will they find out who they really are? And what then?

The first thing I have to say (and for a musical perhaps the most important!) is the music was fantastic – the songs are timeless classics and the music sets the mood and then changes it again at warp speed so you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster of emotion.

Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson play the twins in perfect mirror – two young lads who are so different but just can’t help being best mates. Their brilliance as the fun-loving and youthful Mickey and Eddie makes the sinister turn at the end of the play all the more harrowing. You are rooting for them but you just know it won’t end well. The Narrator (played by Warwick Evans) constantly reminds you that the happiness cannot last forever and yet right until the end you find yourself hoping. This is the power of the Blood Brothers story and the excellent cast in this touring production – they keep you hoping against the odds.

A review of the show wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Maureen Nolan as Mrs Johnstone. After seeing other performances with incredibly young (and perhaps inexperienced) actresses playing the role I thought Nolan brought a real spectrum of experience and reality to the role. Her vocal range is quite unique and brought an earthy huskiness to Mrs Johnstone which I hadn’t expected but thoroughly enjoyed.

This is a good old-fashioned musical at its best. It will make you laugh and cry – probably at the same time. Well worth a watch and a brilliant night out for the family.

WORDS BY: Stephanie Harrison


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