This is realistic fiction, musically narrated within a well mastered vocal performance by Kristofer Harding. In this narrator role, Harding reveals a heart wrenching tale, which is believable on one hand, and yet ends in an unlikely scenario. But we don’t mind – this is a tragedy in the dramatic sense after all. Because this is about two boys who meet aged 7 years (almost 8) who become best friends, and who, unknowingly, have blood ties.
This multi-award winning musical is also about superstition and religious blackmail, and, of course, a favourite theme of author and dramatist, Willy Russell is the class divide. On one hand we have Mrs Johnstone (Maureen Nolan) living on the never-never in urban Liverpool, while on the other is her employer Mrs Lyons (Tracy Spencer) living in a more affluent area of the city.
And Russell, who has always written across genres, penned the music and lyrics. The score relates very closely to the changing story-line and the darkening mood. A clever dramatic device Russell adopts is the repetition of songs throughout, but, each time, manages to bear a new relevance. One of the hits is called “Marilyn Monroe” and it is repeated at least three times. Monroe was a top celebrity from the period in which the story is set, and when the song features we acknowledge, in our minds, that Monroe’s real life story is creeping in and is linking to the Blood Brothers story as it unfolds. So the line “just like Marilyn Monroe” is simply comparing the beauty and vivaciousness of one (or two) female characters early on, but by the play’s end is mediating devastating circumstance.
Some cast members have to play their parts as children and this is the injection of comedy which provides the balance of entertainment. Key roles shows us the manic, roguish Sammy (Daniel Taylor), the energetic, lovable, Mickey (Sean Jones), the shy and gentle politeness of Eddie (Mark Hutchinson), and the tom boy and fun loving, Linda (Danielle Corlass). These players convey childhood traits and responses with great accuracy and detail. And as their characters grow up the truth and complexities of personality follows through.
Nolan has a singing voice that is deep, rich and powerful, and also reaches some wonderful harmonious highs when singing alongside Harding. She shows she has great emotional intelligence in her work too. I noted that she, as well as Jones and Corlass, at the end, took a little time to throw off the intensity of those final scenes, and were not able to manage full on smiles until they came running out a third time to receive the encore.
The audience stood up to deliver their applause, and this was particularly popular with the school parties of young people attending. This production transports you in time and is attention grabbing.
Note: Tickets for Blood Brothers are available now from the Belgrade Theatre’s Box Office on 024 7655 3055 priced from £22 to £40.75 or via www.belgrade.co.uk where cheaper tickets are available.
Note: Reviewer, Debra Hall, attended the press night showing of Blood Brothers at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on Tuesday 28 January in an official capacity on behalf of Remotegoat Stage.