The acclaimed musical Blood Brothers comes to Milton Keynes Theatre this week. Written by Willy Russell, it tells the story of twins Mikey and Eddie who are separated at birth. One is raised in a comfortable setting and one by a poor family. This may be called a musical but the drama and gravity of the storyline makes it feel more like a play to music.
Set in the early 1960’s, Mrs Johnstone finds herself pregnant and single after already supporting her large family. She struggles to make ends meet and cannot afford two more babies so when her employer, Mrs Lyons suggests giving one of the children to her, Mrs Johnstone reluctantly agrees. She continues to clean for the family after the twins are born but pays too much attention to the baby she gave away, so Mrs Lyons fires her. Mrs Johnston wants to take her baby with her but Mrs Lyons plays on Mrs Johnstone's superstitions by telling her that "If twins separated at birth learn that they were once one of a pair they will both immediately die". By chance the twins meet as seven-year-old kids and after learning they share the same birthday, the two boys make a pact to become blood brothers, with Mickey calling Edward "Eddie". Mrs Lyons becomes worried about Eddie's friendship with Mickey and decides to move to get away from the effect the poorer children are having on their son. A lot of the first half is given over to Eddie and Mickey becoming friends. As an audience member you feel you are growing with them. Watching them at seven and then again at fourteen and eighteen.
Mrs Johnstone is played by Lyn Paul and she is outstanding in the role. Her portrayal of a mother standing by her children reached every parent in the audience. Her voice is exceptional and this role feels perfect for her and is the glue that holds this show together. The Narrator, is played by Dean Chisnall. He interjects at various points to help the story move along and has a very masterful voice to give the gravitas it needs.
Mickey is the poor twin and is played by Sean Jones and he is magnificent in the role making the audience care about him. His presence on the stage is magnetic and you can’t stop watching him. Small moments such as when as a seven-year-old he spits and it falls down onto him. His enthusiasm is contagious and he really is in control of all of our emotions as we go on his journey of his life with him. I was in tears at the end of this show and Sean was a huge part of the reason because everyone loves Mickey. Eddie is the rich twin and is played by Mark Hutchinson. His awkwardness and lack of understanding of social situations was well acted and Mark’s interpretation of.that social understanding despite the quality of his education is polarised to eddies friendliness. It’s a clever pairing of opposites.
Mrs Lyons, is played by Sarah Jane Buckley and her definition of Mrs Lyons as she struggles to live with her decision and protect her son from the truth of his birth is painfully accurate. It takes her down a dark path and Sarah Jane gives us a real understanding into the struggle. Linda is played by Danielle Corlass is a childhood friends to both Eddie and Mickey. Danielle is great in the role and she offers the audience an understanding of her situation so they don’t judge her.
I also enjoyed small moments in the show such as the posh teacher at uni turning into the comprehensive common one with the change of a tie being skewed, and the milkman who graduated into the gynaecologist. It gave an ease for the audience to accept one actor playing several roles and also a sense of humour to the show.
This particular production of the show is the best I have ever experienced. The audience gave a full standing ovation on a Monday night and frankly it was well deserved. The show will make you laugh and cry. It is a rollercoaster of emotions.
Blood Brothers is at Milton Keynes theatre until 7 October 2017.