The Edinburgh Playhouse
Have you heard the story of the Johnston twins? Blood Brothers is a tale of class, superstition and family. Michael and Edward are parted at birth; Mickey (Sean Jones) receives a working class upbringing on a council estate while Eddie (Joel Benedict) is brought up in an upper-middle class home.
A pair of star-crossed brothers, the once separated twins unwittingly reunite despite their class differences and forge a strong friendship. Even with such dark and tragic themes, the musical is deeply comic and features an array of powerful songs.
Originally created by Willy Russell in 1983, Blood Brothers still remains popular with audiences worldwide. This was clear on Monday night with the auditorium of the Playhouse filled to the brim, and made even more evident by the waves of laughter that further filled the room.
Even though the show tackles complex ideas and emotions, it is full of laugh-out-loud moments. Most of the comical elements stem from the clash of cultures as the brothers get to know each other, the most notable example being when Edward, the posher of the two, tells his mother that she’s “a f*** off” after having been educated by his brother in the art of swearing.
Markedly, adult actors portray the roles of Mickey and Eddie throughout the play, from early childhood to young adulthood. It is effective, not to mention comical, to watch twenty-something actors running around in school uniforms, playing at cowboys and Indians.
That being said, the real star of the show was Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnston. Paul expertly performed key songs such as ‘Tell Me It’s not True’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe’, filling the shoes of Maureen Nolan who performed the same role in previous tours of the show. Paul’s powerful voice outshone the rest of the cast, allowing the audience to sympathise even further with her character’s circumstances.
The narrator of the play (Kristofer Harding) is marginalised to the side of the stage, although his continuous presence renders him central to the show. Harding introduces the play with the unforgettable line, ‘Have you heard the story of the Johnston twins?’ and remains on stage for the remainder of the performance, becoming an omniscient figure within the lives of the characters.
The Playhouse’s current production of Blood Brothers maintains its status as a powerful portrayal of class division and family ties, with enduring themes that allow it to remain so popular some 33 years later.