Blood Brothers at Bath Theatre Royal

AFTER Everton’s crushing 5-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspurs in their last Premier League game, oh how Bill Kenwright must be wishing and hoping that his beloved football club, of which he is a lifelong fan and previous Chairman, will follow in the footsteps of this production and burst into life, performing at the top of their game.

Whilst the Everton players looked like a disjointed group struggling to play as a team, those involved in this production combine to present a show which runs as smooth as silk. each part of the production and cast support one another ,bringing out the best of each other’s talents.

It’s been more than 30 years since Bill Kenwright first sent this now classic, then struggling, musical, out on its first tour, with regular sorties into London, but with fresh musical arrangements and sets, and a cast that play their roles with a passion and insight that gives the impression that they have just discovered the show, there is nothing stale or tired looking about this production. Nor about the social message it sends out.

The vision of children using their imaginations to play Cowboys and Indians in the mean streets of Liverpool, might appear to be a little dated, compared to the present generation’s spoon fed thrills and excitement via a computer screen, but played with absolute belief by the adult actors in those roles it paints an ideal picture of the Liverpool’s slums of that period.

Author and composer Willy Russell would argue that with the gap between the haves and have-nots appearing to be ever widening his attack on the social structure of society still has, albeit a little different in structure, a relevance today.

From the moment that Robbie Scotcher’s cold menacing Narrator introduced this story of twins separated at birth, but constantly drawn together through life – one, Mickey, left to struggle in poverty while the other, Edward, had all the advantages of money and social status – you knew that their story would end in tragedy.

Along with Carly Burns as Linda, who marries Mickey, but loves Edward, Sean Jones and Joel Benedict took Mickey and Edward from innocent seven-year-olds, though troubled teenage years into adulthood, with skill and sympathy. Generating some lovely comedy during those childhood and teenage years, the trio moved on to intense adulthood as the monetary and social gap between them widens. Linda and Edward’s attempt to help the manic-depressive Mickey, driven to reliance on anti-depressant drugs by the loss of his job and an unjust prison sentence, is doomed to failure from the outset.

Looking on, but unable to steer the twins’ story away from a tragic ending, are the mothers, Niki Evans as understanding Mrs Johnstone, forced by poverty to sell one of her twins to Paula Tappenden’s wealthy,  barren and unstable Mrs Lyons. With no fewer than nine numbers at her disposal Niki has the greater chances to expand the character and with a mixture of gentle loving and intense passion grabs those chances with both hands. Paula scores heavily dramatically as her Mrs Lyons goes from neurotic to an almost complete mental breakdown.

With Daniel Taylor skilfully turning Mickey’s older brother Sammy from a bullying child to psychopathic adult, Tim Churchill drawing a neat portrait of the blinkered Mr Lyons, a string of well created cameo characters, and excellent work from the off-stage band and chorus, this was a fine team effort .

After a period, a few years back when it looked as if Blood Brothers had run its course, this production shows that, with recharged batteries, the future as it heads up the league table looks very bright for Bill Kenwright’s production of Willy Russell’s classic musical. Especially with a new generation of young fans joining the show’s already large cult following. If Everton can show the same team spirit and determination to win as those involved in this production the threat of relegation will disappear and they too will start to climb up the league table.


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