Theatre Review: BLOOD BROTHERS – The Lowry, Salford

Blood Brothers UK Tour

Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone and the cast of BLOOD BROTHERS UK Tour (previous touring cast).

Now in its 33rd year, Willy Russell’s tale of poverty, class, love and tragedy continues to captivate in this touring production of BLOOD BROTHERS

If you asked me to name my top five musicals, BLOOD BROTHERS would certainly be on the list. Now in its 33rd year, Willy Russell’s tale of poverty, class division, love and tragedy continues to enthral audiences up and down the country, scooping numerous awards across the world. In fact, Bill Kenwright’s West End production ran for more than 24 years, surpassing 10,000 performances to become the third longest-running musical production in West End history.

Originally developed as a school play, BLOOD BROTHERS tells the captivating and moving tale of Mickey and Eddie, two fraternal twins who are separated at birth. The boys grow up on opposite sides of the tracks – one is raised in a wealthy family, the other in a poor family – only to meet again with fateful consequences.

Directed by Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson, this touring production of BLOOD BROTHERS brings out the comedy and drama of Russell’s script by heightening the action without losing its common touch. Over thirty years since its premiere, the simple yet ingenious story still packs a considerable punch with big musical numbers like TELL ME IT’S NOT TRUE, MISS JONES and BRIGHT NEW DAY retaining their emotion and humour.

In many ways, the strength of BLOOD BROTHERS relies on the performance of the two brothers and Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson certainly deliver. Jones is superb as Mickey, delivering an exceptionally complex and multi layered performance as he grows from the cheeky street kid into the depressed and broken adult. His on-stage chemistry with Hutchinson as the well-mannered but naïve Eddie is superb, as it is with Alison Crawford who plays his childhood sweetheart Linda.

Dean Chisnall impresses as the narrator, looming over the proceedings with a sinister menace as he lurks in the background.

But the star of the show is undoubtedly Lyn Paul (formerly of the New Seekers) who makes a welcome return as Mrs Johnstone, a role she has played many times in the West End. Paul brings enormous dignity and sympathy to the character and her vocal performance is simply flawless.

While some elements of the script feel a little dated, the emotional intensity of the show is still as tangible as ever and although we have been warned of possible tragedy at the end, when it finally does come, it is both shocking and emotional.

With is thrilling story, atmospheric score and superb cast performances, BLOOD BROTHERS remains an all-time classic. A worthy revival of Russell’s classic play that’s well worth the ticket price.

4 out of 5 stars

BLOOD BROTHERS runs at The Lowry until 19 November