Theatre Review: THE BLACK BLUES BROTHERS – The Lowry, Salford

Paying tribute to the much-loved film, THE BLACK BLUES BROTHERS’ incredible strength, agility and balance make for an entertaining evening.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Following an international sell-out tour in over 150 cities, an audience with Pope Francis, an appearance at the 2020 Royal Variety Performance and a sold-out Edinburgh Festival season, THE BLACK BLUES BROTHERS finally make their UK debut with a new tour, stopping at The Lowry’s Quay Theatre for a three-night run.

The acrobatic company, which hails from Sarakasi, Kenya, are a social circus trust based in Nairobi founded to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in Eastern Africa. The show, which is a tribute to the legendary and much-loved film THE BLUES BROTHERS, is billed as a combination of dance, physical theatre, and a circus show, and whilst the acrobatic entertainment is undoubtedly thrilling, it’s probably best to take the emphasis off dance.

Set in a 1940s-themed nightclub, a throwback to the Cotton Club era, a vintage radio blasts out hits from the legendary cult 1980s film, including GIMME SOME LOVIN’, SWEET HOME CHICAGO and SOUL MAN.

These boys are seriously skilled in extremely difficult physical feats, as they twist and tumble through jaw-dropping balancing acts, gravity-defying human pyramids supported by a single figure, fiery acrobatics and much more.

The show is rated for ages 0+, but (spoiler alert) there is a strip tease scene, of sorts, at the beginning of the performance to Tom Jones’ YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR HAT ON. One of the performers mimes not wanting to take his clothes off, and is then physically bullied by a ring of strong men who comedically remove them for him. There’s a bit of an uncomfortable parental shifting in seats at this point, but the children laugh, and the performance moves on.

The brothers, stripped down to their suspended trousers, begin to fire themselves through hoops at a death-defying speed, using stage props and each other as springboards. A skipping rope appears on stage, and the coordination in this part of the show is seriously impressive. All perform tricks whilst the rope revolves around them as if it were imaginary, resulting in Double Dutch to the power of five!

Audience participation occurs twice in the show, with a young lady being invited onto the stage to be acrobatically wooed by the cast. Children are also hoisted out of the audience to participate in the limbo. Once the kids are safely back in their seats, the limbo bar is promptly set alight for a fiery finale.

While some sections of the show, particularly those with mime only and no music, could be a little more polished, THE BLACK BLUES BROTHERS make for an enjoyable night, thanks to their incredible feats of strength, agility, and balance.

THE BLACK BLUES BROTHERS runs at The Lowry, Salford, until 29 October 2022