Blood Brothers Review

Newcastle Theatre Royal – until 25 September 2021


“So, did you’hear the story of the Johnstone twins?”

Well, if you haven’t you must! The phenomenon that is Blood Brothers has been captivating audiences for over 30 years now. Willy Russell’s moving tale of two twin boys who are separated at birth and grow up on opposite sides of the social-class spectrum, only to meet up again with devastating consequences, has established itself as a contemporary classic around the globe. 

Having seen the show numerous times before, the characters and plot are familiar to me but, despite that, Blood Brothers grips me each and every time with its poignancy, humour, tenderness and tragedy.

The role of Mrs Johnstone must be one of the most coveted in musical theatre and the struggling single mother “with seven hungry mouths to feed and one more nearly due” has been played by a whole host of well-known actresses. Lyn Paul is the actress who is currently re-wearing the care-worn smile and crossover pinny for the last time.

Paul presents the audience with quite a different ‘Mrs J’ – although she is maternal, understanding, compassionate, earthy and warm-hearted, she also displays a nervous vulnerability. In addition to a phenomenal acting performance, she delivers her musical numbers with meaning and conviction and her voice is clear, rich and full of emotion.

Alex Patmore, as Mickey, and Joel Benedict as Eddie are outstanding. It can’’t be easy to convincingly play a seven year old child but both of them achieve it admirably, capturing every childhood nuance accurately. The transition to teenager, then man, is equally convincing. Both actors display great skill with the many poignant scenes that they share and the contrast between ‘posh’ Edward and ‘scruffy’ Mickey manifests itself perfectly in their performances. Patmore makes the most of Mickey’s comedic qualities without ever over-playing them and Benedict gives Eddie an endearing charm and vulnerability.

Danielle Corlass plays Linda, the girl both boys fall in love with. She, too, gives a fine performance throughout, especially in the scene where she tries to persuade Mickey to stop taking the anti-depressants that have transformed him into an empty shell of a man.

Robbie Scotcher plays the significant role of the Narrator, a spectral figure who personifies the moral consciences of Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, and his performance is as strong and sinister as it should be. His ominous presence hovers around like a dark storm cloud on a sunny day and his strong and powerful voice is hauntingly beautiful.

The strong supporting cast includes Paula Tappenden and Grace Galloway who play Mrs Lyons and Donna-Marie respectively. Daniel Taylor is bad-boy Sammy and Tim Churchill is Mr Lyons.

Blood Brothers is a production that goes from strength to strength, its appeal growing over the years rather than diminishing. It is so powerful a play that it can be watched time and time again without ever losing any of its emotional impact or social relevance.

Wherever it is performed, Blood Brothers receives a standing ovation from an approving audience with no exception. This production is heart-warming, tear-jerking, uplifting, devastating and, above all else, brilliant!

The cast and audiences are currently collecting money in memory of Graham Martin, a much loved member of the Blood Brothers family, who sadly died last year.  The Graham Martin Bursary has been set up in conjunction with Arts Ed.  The bursary will provide a helping hand to young performers of exceptional talent during their years of study at ArtsEd.  In addition to being awarded financial support, the bursary recipients will also be mentored by well-established theatre professionals, reflecting the generosity with which Graham shared his own expertise and experience for so many years.  Donations can be made here Graham Martin Bursary Appeal