REVIEW: Blood Brothers – The Devil certainly has their number – Blood Brothers crashes onto the Hippodrome stage

Blood Brothers UK Tour 2021 – Production Photography

Venue: Birmingham Hippodrome

Performance Date: 01 November 2021

Reviewer: Ely King

Star Rating: ★★★★

The heart-breaking story of The Johnstone Twins may not be known to all, but the term ‘Blood Brothers’ comes close. The tale of twins separated at birth plays out in spectacular fashion before your eyes in this performance of gritty desperation and harrowing tragedy.

Upon entry, all are given the warning of flash lighting, smoke, and gunshots, a warning that is very much needed throughout. Though the flashes and shots are scarce, when they are used it is to the full effect with an amazing shock factor.

Prior to the performance, there is oddly no music or soundtrack playing to get the crowd warmed up and ready for the show. This makes sense as soon as the show begins, as the opening scene stretches out silently creating the feeling of unease and suspense as the 6-piece band slowly builds up in layers over an extended period.

Performing as Mickey Johnstone is Alexander Patmore who portrays the loveable rogue with boyish charm to a T. Edward ‘Eddie’ Lyons is normally played by Joel Benedict however for opening night in Birmingham Andy Owens performed flawlessly as the more affluent brother.

Even though the show relies on brothers Mickey and Eddie, it is truly nothing without the powerhouse that is Lyn Paul playing Mrs. Johnstone. Paul is an incredible talent, a true star, and no novice to playing the matriarch of the family. This UK tour of Blood Brothers is her farewell tour to the character, so catch her while you can!

The only talent coming close to Paul’s is the incomparable Robbie Scotcher acting as the Narrator. Scotcher is a class act, providing buttery smooth vocals yet delivering a powerful stance looming ominously over the show, barely leaving the stage at all through both acts.

For many, the plethora of parallels between real life and this show is startling yet oddly comforting. Throughout Act One, the family displays what it’s like to grow up on a council estate, playing in the streets with hoards of kids playing ridiculous games with random objects found in the fields, innocent fun. Though the realism may hit too close to home with the reminders of the ability to sign up to too many payment plans and how easy it is for the family to slip into debt due to the lack of help.

Paula Tappenden as Mrs. Lyons is perfectly cast, showing the fine line between a protective mother looking out for her son, and an absolutely unhinged paranoid maniac. It is truly magical how Tappenden can make you feel both sorry for her and infuriated with her at the same time.

The women really run this show, with the sensational Danielle Corlass reprising her role as Linda for this run of the tour. Linda is an exceptional example of the dedicated doting wife torn between the man she loves who is struggling and the man who could treat her well. Corlass performs with such raw emotion that it feels like your own heart is torn for her.

The slanted stage is used to full effect, helping to portray depth and perception both literally and metaphorically, showing how characters drift from one another physically or in wealth. The fact Eddie is often at the back and raised infers that he will always be ‘one up’ over Mickey, both in life and in class.

The set is so simple yet perfectly effective, it embodies how the show itself is simplistic yet still as enchanting as ever. It relies on the actors and musicians to truly carry the story instead of adding in tricks and pyrotechnics where it really isn’t needed.

Lighting designer Nick Richings and sound designer Dan Samson are a truly talented pair, helping to push the narrative between mixtures of soft and harsh lighting paired with slow solemn, or loud erratic music to boot.

Blood Brothers is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but the show is known as a classic for a reason and truly deserves that accolade.

Runs until at Birmingham Hippodrome until: 13 November

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