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Blood Brothers interview with Willy Russell

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Introduction

Mr. Russell, welcome to our program, Writers' Question Time. Could you briefly tell us what your play is about? Thank you for inviting me to the show. "Blood Brothers" is about the story of twin brothers separated at birth. The twins' working-class mother - Mrs. Johnston - is too poor to keep both twins, so gives one to her very rich employer Mrs. Lyons, who cannot have children of her own. Mrs. Johnston is extremely superstitious, and Mrs. Lyons discovers this early on when Mrs. Johnston finds shoes on the table. Mrs. Lyons takes advantage of this, and tells Mrs. Johnston 'that if either twin learns he was one of a pair they shall both die immediately!' Until the twins are about eight years of age, Mrs. Lyons and Mrs. Johnston have no problem keeping their secret shut away. They then find that the twins have met, and have become very good friends without realising they are related to each other. Mrs. Lyons persuades her husband to move the family away from the city to the countryside. Later in the play, Mrs. Johnston and her children get moved from the slums, closer to the house of Mrs Lyons. As the twins discover each other once again, Mrs. Lyons' mental health begins to deteriorate, and paranoia starts to kick in. With Mrs. Johnston, anxious as ever that her secret will slip out, the general mood of the play becomes more sinister, and the ending is tragic. Mr. Russell, what can you tell us about the setting you have chosen for your play? ...read more.

Middle

Later in the play, when Mrs. Lyons is convinced that Mrs. Johnston is following her, she orders, 'Edward, you will have to go away to school.' Edward, the twin given away, is not very happy with the fast decision. The decision is so fast for two main reasons: Mrs. Lyons does not want any trouble, and Mrs. Lyons has the financial backing from her husband to do anything she feels needed. Here, the audience see how being rich can be beneficial in certain circumstances - having the flexibility which working-class people do not have. Since Edward goes to a private school, he is already at an advantage when it comes to getting qualifications and a job. Edward gets good grades, and manages to go to university. Mickey, though, goes to a normal school, where there is the possibility of him hanging with the wrong crowd. Mickey leaves school early without qualifications, and has a staggering high mountain to climb. Even with qualifications, the chances of Mickey getting into university remains slim, as he would not be able to pay the fees. Once again, Mrs. Lyons' financial backing gives Edward something Mickey could not have. One advantage of being poor however is being streetwise. Mickey does not have much else to do other than hang on a street corner. Mickey learns more about social life, whilst Edward is busy studying. This is shown when Edward is hanging out with Mickey on the street for the first time. Edward offers Mickey a sweet, and Mickey is immediately suspicious. ...read more.

Conclusion

What do you think of it? Of course I've seen the West End musical version! I'm very pleased with the way it turned out - the music added another dimension to the play, and made it more emotional for the audience (something the original Blood Brothers cannot do). The original playscript of Blood Brothers does not feature all of the scenes included in the West End version. Without the extra scenes the play would not last a very long time on the stage. I wanted my audience to have something to remember, so several extra scenes were incorporated including a scene where Mickey and his brother Sammy are threatening a bus driver with a knife. Along with many other scenes, these additions extend the play and give the audience more to think about. By bringing Sammy more of the action, another main character is developed, creating another element for the audience to think about. The West End musical version is much longer than the original because I wanted the audience to be more involved with the characters' lives and with the themes of the play. I wanted the audience to have a clearer understanding of the story, and have a better idea of its complexities so they interpret the play from different perspectives. Overall I am pleased with the West End version, and I'd like to think of it as a superb addition to the original. The West End version remains strong in my heart, as it has done for its twenty years as a production. I hope to see more people watch the West End version, but also to read the original. I am delighted to be invited onto the program. ...read more.

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  1. How does Willy Russell explore the themes of class and society in Blood Brothers?

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