- February 5, 2020
I first saw Blood Brothers back in 1983 in the West End with Barbara Dickson in the role of Mrs Johnstone – and I was blown away. Willy Russell is no doubt one of the finest wordsmiths of the British stage and his ability to create beautiful lyrics and scripts is beyond compare. Blood Brothers is a tale of class struggle, a morality tale set in the mid twentieth century but in content timeless, as poignant today as it was 40 years ago – a sad truth.
I have seen the show an impressive, or should I say embarrassing 14 times now and over the years a wide range of actors in the central role of Mrs Johnstone. I loved Barbara Dickson and the rather more edgy arrangements of the original production. But since then no-one has played that role with the same power as Lyn Paul. SHe inhabits the the role with disturbing realness, and that voice is a soaring triumph. But the songs are not delivered in the manner of a pop diva but with the heart of a real actor – Lyn Paul is the definitive Mrs Johnstone.
Of course the production is also dependent on a fine cast too. Danielle Corlass is a feisty Linda, brittle, tarty and fun. Daniel Taylor’s Sammy is disturbingly funny and brutal. Paula Tappenden does posh so so well and matches beautifully in the duets and Tim Churchill is excellent throughout. Robbie Scotcher is dark and threatening as the narrator and the rest of the company mop up the other roles, from naughty kids to nosey neighbours with skill and energy, an energy that drives the production forward.
At the centre of the story we have the two boys. Joel Benedict is Eddie the privileged posh boy who from seven to his early twenties witnesses the class divide and finally chooses on which side his heart lies. Alexander Patmore’s Mickey is grubby gentle child with a sweet heart, a cheeky spirit and he delivers the sad decline into depression with great sensitivity, a beautiful performance.
It is little wonder that this show has become a regular feature across Britain’s theatres, it is well formed, beautifully performed and, sadly, the content is timeless. One would have hoped that the class struggles it portrays had become a thing of the past, but they have not.
Theatre Royal Brighton