Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Blood Brothers - The Opera House, Manchester

Blood Brothers
Book/Music/Lyrics: Willy Russell
Director: Bob Thomson & Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: John Roberts

So did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins? If the answer is yes, then chances are you have had the delight of experiencing this theatrical tour-de-force sometime over its long running success, if not then there can only be a few reasons...either you don’t go to the theatre (which means you’re not reading this review) or you’re officially dead!!

Willy Russell’s hit musical tells the story of two twins separated at birth. Mrs Johnstone the children’s natural mother has to give one away due to not being able to look after another two without social services getting involved. What pans out is the ever argued debate over Nature versus Nurture.

Set upon the backdrop of the 70’s/80’s recession Blood Brothers couldn’t be any more timely or poignant than now, an age where UK unemployment is at its highest, more houses being repossessed than ever, and a constantly increasing personal and national debt, one can’t help but be aware or even effected by the themes that this musical brings forward.

Having seen Blood Brother’s on numerous occasions, with many different actors and actresses playing the lead roles, one has to throw his hands in the air and say that the current cast performing at the Manchester Opera House has to be one of the best I have ever seen.

Making a homecoming performance is Manchester’s own Lyn Paul, who has already received the accolade of The Fans Favourite Mrs J, and it is easy to understand why. Paul who first played the role in London over a decade ago brings a level of emotional depth that other actresses who have played the part fail to muster. Watching her perform you really connect with the pain and torment that the character is going through, and her singing voice is sublime with warm enveloping vocals you can’t help feeling safe when she sings.

Sean Jones as Mickey, brings a real likeability to the role, and gains many laughs throughout the production, with fantastic comic timing, his physical journey from a 7 year old to a manic depressive twenty something is staggering and at times it is hard to believe you are watching the same actor. Simon Wilmont is also suitably cast as Edward the slightly awkward and well brought up twin relishing a real suave charm throughout. Jones and Wilmot when on stage together provide a chemistry that is nothing short of electrifying.

Other notable performances are given by Daniel Taylor as Sammy who provides a much needed roughness to the proceedings. Linda played with great energy and emotional depth by Anna Sambrooks is captivating throughout and the ever lurking and often menacing narrator is captured with real panache and gusto by Robbie Scotcher.

This really is a cast that shines from the eerie chords of the choral opening right the way through to the gripping and ultimately harrowing finale. Blood Brothers is an emotional masterpiece guaranteed to pull at your heart strings, have you laughing like never before and have you out of your seat applauding faster than ever! SENSATIONAL

Runs until Sat 24th Oct
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