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BrumHour saw Blood Brothers at the invitation of Birmingham Hippodrome.
By Eleanor Lawson twitter.com/Elle_Lawson
Blood Brothers at
Directed by Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson written by Willy Russell
Mrs Johnstone (Lyn Paul) is a pregnant, working-class single mother, who cannot afford to keep both of the twins she is carrying. Aching for a child of her own, her new employer, Mrs Lyons, applies pressure in just the right places until she cracks, and swears on the Bible to give her one of her own twins. Thus, Eddie (Joel Benedict) is whisked away into the middle-class comfort of the Lyons home while Mickey (Alexander Patmore) is the runt of the Johnstone litter, doting on the formative influence of his older brother Sammy (Daniel Taylor).
Superstition runs through the veins of the play. Both mothers want to keep their children away from each other, but the two are drawn together time and time again. The threat of tragedy looms over the entire production, with the omnipresent narrator warning the audience and characters that the devil is on their back like a vengeful spirit in a Greek tragedy. Robbie Scotcher’s narrator watches over everything and everyone, his presence a memento mori (a token of death) as the two children play together gleefully, a constant reminder of the tragedy still to come. Scotcher simmers with anger as he watches the events spool out before him, and the power of his voice raises the hairs on the back of your neck.
For someone who’s seen a relatively large amount of theatre, people were surprised that I’d never seen Blood Brothers before. It’s become a modern classic, a staple of school curriculums, and a sell-out at theatres around the country. I took a friend who has now seen it six times, and this sums up the beating heart of Blood Brothers that means people just keep coming back.
Alexander Patmore is outstanding as Mickey, and his performance, in particular, will burn itself into your brain. He’s a boisterous ball of energy as he plays Mickey at seven years old, owning the space so self-consciously in a way that only children can. As his life unfolds, determined by his upbringing, the way he collapses in on himself is gut-wrenching. Daniel Taylor’s Sammy is a perfect foil for Mickey, a gullible and sheltered child growing into a high-flying councilman with a tender heart.
Watching Blood Brothers, I couldn’t help but think of the last production I’d seen at the Hippodrome: Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet. Both begin with bodies splayed out across a canvas of a far wider social landscape that they’ve been mauled by. Blood Brothers is a story of class and how it can break you, which is why it’s a production that will always stay relevant.
Blood Brothers is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 12th October. Book tickets here: birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/blood-brothers-2
This isn’t a sponsored post.
Eleanor Lawson produces Interval Theatre Tuesdays at 3pm on Brum Radio.