Blood Brothers at Leeds Grand – Review

I love Blood Brothers. The musical masterpiece by Willy Russell tells the story of two twin brothers separated at birth. The one given away is given a much better crack at life and goes on to be successful, as well as polite, courteous and kind. The other, born to a struggling single mother with a brood of kids already, ends up in prison.

The show’s music is a winner, with catchy tunes and pacy chorus numbers keeping the show nicely moving along. The piece has plenty of poignancy and sinister moments but there’s humour throughout to keep us laughing and crying – a lovely balance.

Maybe it’s Just Another Sign of the Times, but honestly the show’s premise seems a little out-dated for modern audiences. It’s hard to keep in mind the play’s set in the 1980s, but the stereotype that boys from council estate backgrounds are destined to become criminal good-for-nothing men doesn’t really sit easily. As Mrs Lyons tries so desperately to keep the two children apart for their own sakes, the class debate rages throughout the piece and though it raises some interesting points about class segregation it’s a shame this isn’t explored in perhaps quite such a black and white manner.

Linzi Hateley as Mrs Johnstone isn’t quite warm enough to draw sympathy and I don’t think she brings enough emotional depth to the part – it’s very much ‘acted’ rather than truly felt. Alex Patmore as Mickey is taking the role on from Sean Jones who had the part absolutely nailed in previous tours. Unfortunately Patmore doesn’t quite share Jones’ likability factor and overplays the more serious scenes. His fast-paced delivery of lines is part of his excitable childish character in the earlier scenes, but every other word is missed. Joel Benedict reprises his role as Eddie – because he’s a perfect Eddie. Charming, likeable and yet with trouble of his own, such as an overbearing mother and unrequited (later to be requited) love.

Robbie Scotcher is an incredibly understated Narrator but this works well – his part flows in and out of the scenes without causing intrusion and this adds an element of mystique rather than sinister undertones added by Narrators of previous tours.

A lot of the other cast members such as Danny Taylor (Sammy), Tim Churchill (Mr Lyons) andĀ Graham Martin (Policeman/Teacher) are recognisable cast members from previous tours and they’re all fantastic. It’s unusual to see casts stick to a show so loyally so it’s great to see they’re back on stage again as they’re perfect for their parts.

The show’s set is great, depicting a typical street scene with the main staging area transforming slickly into other settings. Aside from an awkward technical glitch just after the interval, the show was beautifully put together.

All-in-all I came away feeling impressed and inspired by Willy Russell’s writing, but unmoved by the production.

Catch Blood Brothers at Leeds Grand until 18th May 2019.

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