Wakefield Little Theatre proudly presents Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers for one evening during the 2016 Wakefield Drama Festival. The production is Willy Russell’s original play, not the smash hit musical production that ran for a long time in London’s West End.
The story is about Mrs Johnston (Helen Grace), a working-class mother, who has seven children and is expecting twins. She works for Mrs Lyons (Lucy Cruddas), a lonely middle-class mother who is unable to have children. Mrs Lyons suggested that one twin is given to her and promises to give the twin everything Mrs Johnston wishes for her child to have. With Mrs Johnston’s reluctance they both make a pact; swear on the bible and Mrs Lyons has a twin. The children, Mickey and Eddie (Andrew Crossland and Dean Booth), unexpectedly meet when they are seven and a bond is formed and their lives are tied one way or another, only to face tragic consequences.
Various themes rise in the play including class, wealth, power and influence. Russell paints a picture how money and material things doesn’t bring happiness as seen from the characters. Mrs Johnston is a deserted wife with children and Mrs Lyons is a lonely wife with a husband who works away. Mental health and paranoia are also highlighted. There is a lot of food for thought and also reasons to observe the characters’ perceptions particularly superstition.
The cast on the whole are fantastic. Everyone gives a heartfelt performance and portray sensitively and appropriately the featured characters. Although it is the original play, a couple of well known musical numbers including Marilyn Monroe are sung. Helen Grace sings them convincingly and musically without musical accompaniment.
The narrator is present throughout the play and reminds the audience what both Mrs Johnston and Mrs Lyon did is condemnable and selfish. At the beginning he invites the audience to judge for themselves the ‘tale of the Johnston twins’. Paul Haley fits into this role and his silence and demeanour towards both mothers is not unnoticed. Haley is also responsible for the staging, lighting and sounds which link to the mood of the action at different stages.
This production is realistic – movable and lovable from the beginning to the end. Many will certainly remember the ‘tale of the Johnston twins’ and ‘how one was kept, one given away’.
Reviewed: 3rd June 2016
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood