Skip to main content

Blood Brothers

The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Four stars

An unreconstructed Liverpool skyline may hang over the action throughout the latest tour of Willy Russell's working class tragedy, but what follows could have happened in any post-industrial UK city that has had its heart ripped out of it over the last thirty years or so. That Russell's musical fable concerning the very different fortunes of two Scouse brothers separated at birth remains both phenomenally popular and damningly relevant after almost thirty years since its premiere speaks volumes about the state we're in.

Much of the show's appeal comes from the sheer heart of Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright's production, which heightens the action without ever losing its common touch. The latter comes through in the pop poetry of Kristofer Harding's funeral-suited Narrator as much as in the back-street demotic of Sean Jones' Mickey and Danielle Corlass' Linda. This counterpoints the more educated tones of Joel Benedict's Eddie to entertaining effect. Most of all it shines through in Lyn Paul's heartbreaking turn as the twin boys' mother, Mrs Johnstone.

There is nothing abstract in Russell's depiction of class division, the enforced break-up of communities and the psychological and material consequences of extreme poverty. In this respect, Blood Brothers is arguably the first large-scale anti-capitalist musical, which, despite the contradictions of its own success, has subverted the mainstream like no other.

While Russell's musical compositions are far from subtle, some of the overwrought bombast of previous productions has been jettisoned for something more restrained and almost mournful in delivery. Even so, the show's final five minutes remain one of the most emotionally draining theatrical experiences likely to grace a stage anywhere in recent times.

The Herald, February 9th 2016

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…