Theatre review: Blood Brothers at Norwich Theatre Royal

Theatre review: Blood Brothers at Norwich Theatre Royal

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Blood Brothers has come to Norwich Theatre Royal and I caught the show on opening night. Read on to find out what I thought!

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About the show

Written by Willy Russell, the legendary Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences.

Few musicals have received quite such acclaim as the multi-award winning Blood Brothers. Bill Kenwright’s production surpassed 10,000 performances in London’s West End, one of only three musicals ever to achieve that milestone. It has been affectionately christened the ‘Standing Ovation Musical’, as inevitably it “brings the audience cheering to its feet and roaring its approval” (The Daily Mail).

The superb score includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.

Did I enjoy it?

Blood Brothers, a show I knew very little about before going to see it. In fact, I kept getting it mixed up with the Blues Brothers, which is something else entirely. However, I love seeing something I know nothing about so I can go in without any expectations.

Written in the 80s, Blood Brothers is still something a lot of people can relate to, even 40 years later. Strong themes run throughout, such as poverty, class, mental health and superstition and as such, isn’t really suitable for children. The age recommendation is 12+ and I would say that this is about right.

Right from the beginning of the show, there’s a distinction made between Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons. One has too many kids, can’t afford them all and struggles from day to day. The other, lives in a nice house, has nice things and doesn’t really have much to worry about other than the fact she can’t have children.

Mrs Johnstone has just found out she’s pregnant with twins and cannot afford to keep them both. When Mrs Lyons offers to take one of the twins, Mrs Johnstone feels like she doesn’t really have a choice. Mickey and Mrs Johnstone end up broke, and struggling while Eddie and Mrs Lyons live a comfortable life. The two boys meet by accident, forming an unexpected friendship.

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With a very simple set, the two ‘sides’ are made very clear. Mrs Johnstone in her council housing, surrounded by graffiti-covered walls and Mrs Lyons in her posh house on the better side of town. There are very few changes throughout but it’s all so effective. Additions of things like debt collectors and furniture moving being moved around meant that the bigger aspects of the set could stay the same.

Mickey and Eddie first meet aged 7 (nearly 8) and are played by Sean Jones and Joe Sleight respectively. There are no child actors here though and instead, Jones and Sleight play the boys covering a range of years. We see them at 7, 14, 18 and again as young adults. Seeing these actors playing such a variety of ages, with very different personalities and mannerisms blew me away. As the characters get older, the acting skills really shine, especially from Jones towards the end.

Playing Mrs Johnstone is Niki Colwell Evans and wow, did she shine! I felt like she threw absolutely everything she had into this role. You could feel the sadness of not being able to do better for her family, the joy of getting a second chance in life and absolute despair at the end. I had chills watching her on stage!

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I was not expecting to be as moved by Blood Brothers as I was. There are a few moments that were quick shocking, some obvious and some not. There are some things you just won’t see coming no matter how hard you try and the surprises are well worth waiting for. Even before the show had finished, the audience were on their feet with a standing ovation and well deserved too. There’s no wonder Blood Brothers is so popular.

Find out more about the Blood Brothers UK tour, dates and venues here.

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