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Review: Blood Brothers, Thwaites Empire Theatre
WILLY Russell’s Blood Brothers has become a theatrical classic, albeit better known as the hit musical than the original play.
But that didn’t deter a full stalls audience at Blackburn Drama Club’s season opener at Thwaites Empire Theatre.
The story is the same: Twin brothers separated at birth, when their poverty-stricken mother makes a heartbreaking decision to sell one of the boys to her wealthy employer. Chance meetings through the years lead lives to unravel with tragic consequences.
In both play and musical, each cast member plays their role from childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood.
Patrick Walsh and Dylan Allcock as brothers Mickey and Eddie Johnstone and Gemma Nightingale as Linda each rose to this challege, with some fantastic comic effect turning suitably tragic as their lives unfold. Perhaps a stronger posture could give Dylan a bit more of the gravitas needed in the latter scenes, so his ‘threat’ towards Mickey more realistic.
Claire St Pierre and Heidi Needham made a good pair as Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, although the descent of Mrs Lyons’ mental state would have made a greater impact had her initial characterisation been more distinctly portrayed. And for all three women, take care when raising the volume of dialogue not to get too shrill - especially in the Liverpudlian accent.
Keith Walsmley’s looming presence as The Narrator was suitably dark, with great contrast when involved with the action. I’d have liked some changes in accent to really make this work; the dad and milkman - at least - should have been Scousers.
Director Paul Mason’s decision to time shift the work from it’s original setting - early 1960s through to mid-1980s - to 1979 to 2013, seemed a bit pointless.
Not enough was made of the costuming potential to bring this across - are you really telling me that a working class Scouse teenage in the early- to mid-1990s would not be wearing a shell suit? Besides a brief snippet of music and some illegible projections, there was no indication of the era, so why bother. And there seemed to be a massive time jump between the final two phases, just to bring the action into a period of recession.
The action was well paced, and moved along very quickly without scene changes, although I didn’t understand why there was a DJ set-up on stage, nor the football badges; they seemed to be useless distractions.
Sadly I found the very last moments on stage spoiled the powerful drama that had gone before; the tears welling up were instantly wiped out when Chumbawamba’s hit Tubthumping boomed out. The lyrics “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down” were so totally at odds with the previous 90-minutes of story-telling; this was a real shame after a lot of very, strong work on stage.
- BLOOD BROTHERS, Blackburn Drama Club, Thwaites Empire Theatre, until Saturday, October 4, 7.30pm
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