Blood Brothers: Emotional, captivating and yet hilariously funny

Blood Brothers is performing at the Sunderland Empire this week.

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Prior to watching Blood Brothers at the Sunderland Empire, I shamefully didn’t know a thing about what the plot consisted of. All I knew was that it was a musical theatre production, which I love, so I decided to go along and give the show a chance.

As I took my seat in the dress circle (the best seats in the place - in my opinion), I jokingly said to my sister who came along with me, “Imagine we come out of here saying this is the best show we’ve ever seen?” My sister Brooke and I are big theatre-goers, and constantly debate our favourite show that we’ve seen, mine being Dreamgirls and Brooke’s being The Bodyguard. Due to this, we really didn’t think Blood Brothers would be our thing.

Well, how wrong we were! We laughed at the end of the show (through emotional tears), about how that joke I had made at the start turned out to be true.

Blood Brothers is one of, if not the best show I’ve ever seen. It’s emotional, it’s captivating and yet it is also hilariously funny.

Set in Liverpool, the plot consists of two twin boys Mickey and Eddie, who are separated at birth. One grows up in an incredibly wealthy family, while the other (who is kept by the biological mother) grows up in poverty. By chance, they meet and discover they have a close bond almost instantly.

Blood Brothers posterBlood Brothers poster
Blood Brothers poster

However, it all ends in a tragedy, when their lives continue to be worlds apart and they both fall for the same girl - down-to-earth, girlish Linda.

Mickey and Eddie are played by Sean Jones and Jay Worley, and along with Carly Burns who plays Linda, and Timothy Lucas who plays Sammy, they must first act as small children, then teenagers before eventually becoming adults, which is not an easy thing to do.

The acting of all four, comes from a place of pure talent. They deliver lines as children with incredible comedic timing, and yet once they reach adulthood and the plot becomes more serious and sad, the actors adapt to the development of their characters with ease.

Both of the actresses who portray the mothers, Niki Colwell Evans who plays Mrs Johnstone (the biological mother), and Paula Tappenden who plays Mrs Lyons (the adoptive mother), explore the depths and layers of motherhood in a significant way, representing love, loss, pain and protectiveness. Both actresses displayed these emotions very well to the audience, with mothers being able to relate on a personal level.

Blood Brothers explores a mother and son dynamicBlood Brothers explores a mother and son dynamic
Blood Brothers explores a mother and son dynamic

Throughout the story, a narrator played by Richard Munday, helps the audience to understand the feelings of the other characters. He also acts as a conscience, and some may interpret his role as the minds of the characters. However, he also possesses a demon-like persona, as his song sung throughout the show, Shoes Upon The Table, a song about superstition reminds the audience that this story will end in tragedy. Richard Munday absolutely excelled in the role.

I couldn’t fault any of the cast, everyone had exceptional, mind-blowing talent, including the ensemble cast. But the stand-out performer was Sean Jones, who played Mickey. His character had the most development and change in personality through the years and Sean was able to play each version of Mickey convincingly and emotionally. From the innocent and hyper-active child, to the bleak, depressed adult he came to be.

Mickey turns to a life of crime in order to support his familyMickey turns to a life of crime in order to support his family
Mickey turns to a life of crime in order to support his family

My only critique of the show is that you know from the offset that the tragedy the twins will face will be the death of them both. I understand that it is crucial to the plot and the songs that the audience knows that a tragedy is approaching, but I personally think that the final scene - the death of the twins, would have more impact if the audience didn’t already know that it was going to happen.

Overall though, it was a phenomenal show, providing an insight to the bleak state of the poverty-stricken area of Liverpool from the 50s to the 80s, class divides and the concept of nature versus nurture.

Written by Liverpudlian Willy Russell, Blood Brothers has been running for over 40 years. The show continues to be a success among audiences across the UK.

Blood Brothers will be at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, September 24. You can find more information and book tickets here.

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