Ian Waller thoroughly enjoys the return of a classic of modern theatre
It was a good night. We left the grand old Bristol Hippodrome with wide smiles and echoes of rapturous applause in our ears. Blood Brothers is back in town and it is superb – just a great example of poignant, moving, dramatic and hugely enjoyable top class theatre.
While the core tale of twins separated at birth is barely original, Willy’s Russell’s take – despite being written in the early 1981 and set in the 1960s – is both timely and provocative, and continues to raise issues around class, social care and family that remain unanswered and continue to blight Britain today.
Without wishing to spoil the story for the uninitiated, Blood Brothers follows the parted siblings as they grow up on opposite sides of the class divide, one with a single-parent working class Catholic family constantly trying to make ends meet, the other the only child of a wealthy couple in the house on the hill.
Despite the inequalities, the boys discover each other and alongside a mutual friendship, there’s also wishes to have what the other takes for granted, be it a loving family or the means to move on.
What lifts this production to new heights in the supremely high quality of the acting and the vocal talents of the performers. Niki Colwell Evans as Mrs Johnstone is just wonderful and steals every scene she’s in. She is totally believable as the single mum with the world on her shoulders but so much love to give to everyone. Throughout she brings such passion to part, exemplified by the stunning final scene, along with a beautiful voice that lifts the songs to heights of emotion.
Saying that, there’s barely a weak link across the cast. Sean Jones as Mickey successfully reminds the audience just what it is like to be child, with games of cowboys and Indians, imaginary toys and snotty sleeves. His energy and dedication to the part is hugely impressive, best shown when sharing the stage with his sibling Eddie, played by Joe Sleight, and girlfriend Linda, Gemma Brordick.
While the score and songs do become repetitive at times – OK, I get it, the devil has our number, leave it now… – at their best they’re just wonderfully untypical of so many musicals. Instead of Lloyd Webber style over the top exertion, Blood Brothers delivers songs with real comment and meaning – a fair amount of humour too – often delivered through beautiful harmonies and genuine stagecraft.
Blood Brothers is just wonderful theatre, beautifully produced and presented with a passion and joy that is hard to equal.
Blood Brothers is running at the Bristol Hippodrome until 2 September. For more information and to book tickets, go to www.atgtickets.com/venues/bristol-hippodrome/