★★★★★ | Blood Brothers, Birmingham Hippodrome
Sensational, Tear-Jerking and Nostalgic
“Blood Brothers” celebrates its ninth visit to the Birmingham Hippodrome. Willy Russell’s dramatic yet effervescent musical marks twenty-nine years of existence, and its energy and emotion is still true to the performance today.
I was heavily drawn to Maureen Nolan’s portrayal of Mrs Johnstone. Nolan conjured feelings within the audience that were so unique and precious that led to the well-deserved standing ovation at the very end. Maureen stands out for her tremendous ability in showcasing a wide range of emotions, especially with the way she talks of her children; contrasting with the unpleasant discourses with Mrs Lyons (Mother of Eddie), but most sincerely for the nostalgic effect that she summoned in the audience. The motherly manner in which she coated Mrs Johnstone and the tangible affection she had with her children drove a good few to memory lane.
Another actor who created some ripples in the audience was Kristofer Harding, as the Narrator. It was one of those roles that, when present, an atmosphere is formed, atmosphere of which helped sew the emotion together. Harding’s voice resonated danger and mystery, which left audience members on the edge of their seats with anticipation.
The most astonishing acting witnessed in the whole show was of Sean Jones, Mickey. His incredible imagination in portraying a seven-year-old to then later taking on the same role but as an adult, fascinating! His playfulness as a child was endearing and it felt as though the audience did not want him to grow up. The story is a little like Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” but instead of love, it is a friendship that is denied to them.
A great effect, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was the actor doubling. Two actors that doubled throughout and stood out were Graham Martin and Daniel Taylor. Graham’s wit and creativity shone at the Birmingham Hippodrome: he brought the house down with laughter, as the teacher and as the judge. Daniel’s interpretation of Sammy was a treat. Not only did he capture the older sibling so perfectly well, he became a symbol of the time. Daniel demonstrated energy like no other, and though Sammy was not the lead role, he played every second of that stage with a spirit of a protagonist.
The set was otherworldly. The houses were as real as the one I am sat in now. The effortless changes between scenes were an effect in their own right. The artwork on the back wall of the stage was something extraordinary; it made it look as though we were peering out of a window with the view to Liverpool.
There is a reason why “Blood Brothers” has been running short of thirty years. I was ready to watch it again, but they asked me to put my wine down and leave.
“Blood Brothers” is at Birmingham Hippodrome until the 25th of November.