A gripping tale of fate and families
Like ‘Phantom of the Opera’, the musical version of ‘Blood Brothers’ inspires total devotion from a loyal army of fans, many of whom have seen the show several times.
I admit I am one of them, finding much to enjoy in the compelling combination of powerful story-telling, vivid characters and dramatic music.
So I was intrigued to see how ‘Blood Brothers’ works as a straight play - and the answer is that it does not disappoint in this gripping and well-acted production by Hebden Bridge Little Theatre.
Not that the show is entirely devoid of music - Mrs Johnstone’s opening song sets the scene in a masterpiece of economical story-telling, her fate decided from the moment she accepts an invitation to dance from a lad who thinks she looks like Marilyn Monroe.
The hand of fate looms large over this tale of twins separated at birth and brought up on different sides of the tracks in a Liverpool lurching from good times to recession.
There are no weak links in the cast and Sharon McCarter directs with a confident hand. Phoebe Hallgarth is terrific as the harassed Mrs Johnstone, seeming to grow old before our eyes as the strain of bringing up a large brood single-handed takes its toll.
Newcomer Rick Whyte and Ben Burgin excel as the twin brothers, ageing from seven to 27. Their first meeting as boys - Mickey (Rick) as the Scouse scallywag and Eddie (Ben) as the posh public school pupil - is funny and touching.
The idea behind the show is that fate is random - and can, when it wants to, deal the roughest of hands. The narrator Mike Bellenie is a sinister presence, recalling the chorus of Greek tragedy, whose commentary emphasises that there’s a certain inevitability about the brothers’ tragic fate.
The Scouse accents are impeccable and Willy Russell’s welcome flashes of humour lighten the mood of impending doom.
The Little Theatre has put on an extra matinee performance to cope with demand - and it’s easy to see why this show is proving such a hit.
l ‘Blood Brothers’ is staged tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm and on Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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