A constant interest to psychologists exploring the competing effects of nature or nurture on an individual’s personality is twins who have been separated at birth. Given their equal nature their different upbringing provides insights into the effect of their nurture. Willy Russell takes this theme for his musical play, Blood Brothers, but adds the complication that the twins in question, despite the best efforts of their respective mothers, get to know each other and become firm friends.
Mother-of-six Mrs Johnstone, now faced with bearing twins to add further mouths to her poverty-struck household, is offered a lifeline by her childless but wealthy employer, Mrs Lyons, who offers to take one of the babies as her own. There the matter would rest were it not that at the age of seven the two boys get to meet each other and become bosom pals. Although by this time their lives have gone their separate ways, the one wealthy and well provided for, the other locked into a frugal existence, they find they have much to gain from each other. Indeed, so they do until they reach their late teens when the first crack appears in their mutual regard and thenceforward they move surely and certainly towards self-destruction.
This current tour is a first-class production with a cast that unerringly interprets the mood of the action. A scene in which children are playing for example brilliantly captures the innocence of youth with the oft times cruelty children can demonstrate. While Lyn Paul, who has made the role of Mrs Johnstone her own these past 10 years and Sean Jones as Mickey, the twin she kept, deserve special mention every performer added to the entertainment – and one mustn’t underestimate the power of the singing which forms an integral part of the plot, rather than serving as the separate contribution it is in so many musicals.
In conclusion, last night’s audience gave Blood Brothers a standing ovation which it richly deserved.
[Dermot Hoare, 18 January 2017]
Blood Brothers is running at the New Victoria theatre, Woking from Wednesday 18 January until Saturday 21 January at 7.30pm, with matinees on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm