With book, music and lyrics by Willy Russell [of Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine fame], Blood Brothers, set in the 1960s, tells the story of a contemporary nature versus nurture plot, revolving around fraternal twins Mickey and Eddie, who were separated at birth, one subsequently being raised in a wealthy family, the other in a poor family.
The different environments take the twins to opposite ends of the social spectrum, one becoming a councillor, and the other unemployed and in prison. They both fall in love with the same girl, causing a rift in their friendship and leading to the tragic death of both brothers.
Inspired by a one-act play Russell read as a child ‘about two babies switched at birth. Originally developed as a school play in the early 1980s, Blood Brothers then ran for 27 years in the West End, before being reproduced on Broadway, with cult following.
Making its way back to the school scene with The Princes Players, this production packs a punch with a complete cast and crew of high school students.
A play with music is the best description for this one – haunting melodies, and recurring motifs make up the incredible soundtrack and the equally remarkable cast bring this edgy, challenging and evocative play to life.
Kudos to Producer and Director Paula Little and her Co-Director Alicia Zorkovic for their vision and leadership in this production.
Special mentions to Zara Hower as the long suffering, lovelorn, girl in the middle Linda, and Stella Byrne, who played the neurotic, anxiety ridden Mrs Lyons to a tea.
Isla Zorkovic as Mrs Johnstone, the poor mother of seven, and later eight children, is delightful and sweet with a voice to match. Her renditions of the keynote song ‘Marilyn Monroe’ tied the story together with the perfect amount of melancholy.
The Narrator was superbly portrayed by Angus Porter – who breaks the fourth wall to help the story progress and also act as a moral compass. His two central songs ‘Shoes Upon the Table’ and ‘The Devil’s Got Your Number’ were outstanding.
Young Julian Dawson was a stand out as Edward ‘Eddie’ Lyons; the twin brother given away by Mrs Johnstone, and raised by Mrs Lyons as her own. His charisma and charm are to be applauded, and his transition from an 8 year old to adult politician is clean and believable.
The relationship between the ‘Blood Brothers’; Eddie and Mickey, is a delight to watch, in the knowledge that they are brothers, the fact of which they are both unaware.
Although superstition and fate are presented as themes, the real message of Blood Brothers seems to be that real world social forces shape people’s lives.
The central character of Mickey Johnstone, the youngest child of Mrs Johnstone who she kept, is played by the seasoned Shae Olsson-Jones.
A clear professional on the stage with years of experience behind him, Olsson-Jones physically embodies the progression of an unworldly 8 year old, to a moody teenager and ending up as a jailed, painkiller dependant, father of one with his life ripped apart.
I was especially impressed with his representation of a young Mickey; as a teenager, it is not easy to revert back to being a child without it looking forced. But Olsson-Jones was so authentic in his posturing, mannerisms and physicality that I truly believed he was a child.
Same goes for his believability as Mickey as an older teenager, and eventually ending up a shattered, medicated and lost man. Little quirks such as a tremor, an eye lid flicker, a different gait when he walks – all incredible crafts to have at his age, and the perfect foundations to build on as he develops into a professional actor.
I thoroughly enjoyed this production, and look forward to watching more talent from The Princes Players.
Happy theatre travels…