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Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers" Review

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Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers" Review Tell me it's not true Say it's just a story These words echoed in my head as I entered the Phoenix Theatre. I had had past experience with "Blood Brothers" by singing the heartbreaking ballad "Tell Me It's Not True" in a past show. Therefore I anticipated that the performance I was about to watch was going to be a roller coaster of emotions, with bitter consequences. I expected a first class show with strong, slick performances from the cast and fantastic musical numbers. This expectation of "Blood Brothers" was partly due to it being in the reputable West End of London and had been running at the Phoenix Theatre since 1991. This made me think that a musical that could still have large audiences coming to see it in the highly competitive London Theatre scene, must have something exceptional. I also has background knowledge about "Blood Brothers" from reading the script in parts in class. However, some parts of the play were still patchy to me, so I was looking forward to having the entire story acted out from start to finish. It was interesting for me as well because I was familiar with other plays Willy Russell had written. Having seen Shirley Valentine and read "A Grand Day Out" I enjoyed his of simple, uncluttered style of writing. "Blood Brothers" is set in Liverpool 1962. Its story stems from an impoverished single mother of six called Mrs Johnstone who, by finding that she is pregnant with twins, is persuaded to give up one of her unborn children to her employer, Mrs Lyons. The story unfolds by portraying how the two brothers grow up so differently without ever knowing they have a twin. "Of one womb born, on the self same day How one was kept and one given away?" The story deepens when the twins become friends when they are seven but both realise that they have the same birthday and therefore are both "nearly eight". ...read more.


The scene ended with Linda giving into his demands and breaking down in tears. We sympathised with Linda because we too had known Mickey throughout his life as she did. We had seen them grow up and fall in love, but now we were witnessing Mickey's self destruction and with him, everything and everyone he cared about. It was painful to watch and I believe that this was the point in the play that felt like the point of no return. Phillip Stewart as the narrator was the omniscient character whose sombre prescence always hinted at the tragic ending. He was probably onstage more then any other character yet he was the one who said the least. I saw the narrator not only as the informer to the audience but also acting as the conscience of the characters. This was throughout the play and the narrator especially centred on Mrs Johnstone. , Now y' know the devil's got your number Y' know he's gonna find y', The narrator used imagery of superstitions to make Mrs Johnstone feel fear, and regret constantly over her decision of giving one of her babies away. You're always gonna know what was done Even when you shut your eyes you still see That you sold a son". The theme of superstition is depicted through the narrator. Shoes upon the table An' a spider's been killed. A full moons shinin' An' the salts been spilled. You're walkin' on the pavement cracks Don't know what's gonna come to pass. This is ironic using superstition imagery throughout on Mrs Johnstone as she believed the lie that Mrs Lyons told her that "if either twin learns that he was one of a pair, they shall both immediately die". Yet she realised that she had made a terrible mistake by going against her instincts soon after. Therefore, by the narrator using superstition imagery, it's reminding her of her foolishness and as a result her most costly mistake.Thus the audience know that she is haunted by her past constantly. ...read more.


All this did was to make Mickey feel even more insignificant and infuriated that his best friend had done so well. it's a sad message that their friendship did not manage to overcome the boundaries that society placed. The stage design, although it looked simple, was very complex. Its simplicity was a key element as the strength of "Blood Brothers" is that it has a simplistic quality about it. To prove consistent in this, the stage had to reflect this. The stage design symbolised the divison of Eddie and Mickey simplistically. One one side was the obvious "poor" side where Mrs Johnstone lived; complete with graffiti and rundown houses and then on the other side a clean "posh" house. This aspect of the set supported the theme of social division within the play. It was a visual technique to demonstrate this. The changes of scene and location were achieved successfully by having a set within a set. This was achieved in one example of Mrs Lyons house interior being placed in the middle of the stage from above wires. To me the house in the middle symbolised how Mrs Lyons would always be surrounded by her guilty secret. This especially became apparent when the Lyons moved to the country in the second act, yet the house was still symbolically amidst Mrs Johnstones area and therefore still not escaping to anywhere. Before the play had even started and the cast were coming onto the set to take their first positions, there was a translucent curtain which separated the audience from the actors. Again this wasn't so much "social" divison but it was still a barrier between us and them. I think that the curtain illustrated to us that we were observing something yet we ourselves were not part of it; separated but not isolated. We were the witnesses. If this were true it would tie in with the idea of witnessing Mickey killing Eddie before being shot himself. (as this was were our story started). There was also the symbolism of guns. ...read more.

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