Theatre Royal Nottingham – until 19 September 2021
Reviewed by Charlotte McWilliam
Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is certainly not for the faint hearted. The tragic tale, set in Liverpool, is centred on fraternal twins Mickey and Eddie who are separated at birth. Their Mother, Mrs Johnstone cannot afford to keep the pair so she agrees to Eddie away to the wealthy Mr and Mrs Lyons. In a true depiction of the difference of the British class system, this tear jerking story seeped with superstition really grips you from start to finish.
The show opens with a visual of the Liver building. The main set then flips between the Johnstone and Lyon’s family homes with Everton football club graffitied in the background thus reminding the audience of the Liverpool setting. Mrs Johnstone is played by the acclaimed; Lyn Paul in what is her grand finale of the role before retirement. A little older than when she first donned the part in the 90’s, Paul’s professionalism and great knowledge of the character shone through in her emotive performance. “Easy Terms” and “Tell Me it’s not true” were particularly powerful moments for Paul as her voice oozed emotion only a Mother can know.
The part of the Narrator is played by, Robbie Scotcher. A little lacking in scouse accent, his performance of “Don’t you know the devil’s got your number” certainly makes up for his more neutral speaking tone – his powerful belt and strong vocal technique resonated around the auditorium with ease, a real star role for him.
Further into the first half, we meet Mickey played by Josh Capper. From start to finish, Capper executed the role perfectly – vibrant energy, fun, great comic timing and above all a perfect scouse accent made Capper the best Mickey I have ever seen and dare say will ever see. He really energized the room and his monologues were the perfect blend of comedy and drama – Capper really stole the show for me.
Tim Churchill, with his multirole casting was a particular favourite of mine, and an invaluable cast member. He played Mr Lyons with comic genius and his stereotypical depiction of the recurring Milkman also had the audience in stitches. Having been in the show before you could tell he knew it well and was able to add little idiosyncrasies not seen before. I’d even go as far to say that he kept the show together in parts.
The energy in the second half picked up more so than the first, I guess in line with the story as it reaches its dramatic climax. By this point, Mickey and Eddie are both approaching adulthood and the innocence of their childhood friendship quickly fades as Mickey experiences the hardship working class men of 1970’s Liverpool faced. Mickey becomes bitter towards Eddie for leading a more comfortable life due to the wealth of Mr and Mrs Lyon’s and it is here that things start to fall apart. After an emotional delve into the highs, lows and inequalities of the British class system, the performance ends with a dramatic shoot out where both Brother’s end up dead and the whole cast join in a final chorus of “Tell Me it’s not True”. With a standing ovation, I certainly left the Theatre Royal with a tear or two down my cheeks and definitely won’t be putting “The Shoes upon the table” anytime soon.