It’s iconic, it’s classic, it’s Willy Russell’s wonderful piece of musical theatre, Blood Brothers, and it’s in Woking this week . I’d seen it a couple of times before, as had many of the full-capacity audience this evening, but it’s always worth seeing again, and this was perhaps the best production of it I’ve seen.
The story is of twins separated at birth, one raised by a poverty-stricken single mother, the other as an only child in a prosperous middle-class family. The dramatic dènouement is foreshadowed in the very first scene – it’s powerful theatre. Its social message is timeless though set in the slums of Liverpool in the 1970’s. Willy Russell created a modern parable on the themes of love, loyalty and inexorable fate, which still shines bright and true thirty-four years later.
Sean Jones’ performance as Mickey is memorable for portraying so sensitively a vulnerable character gradually reduced by circumstances, as the charm, humour and enthusiasm of Mickey’s child-self in the first act is replaced by despair and emotional paralysis in the second.
The narrator, Dean Chisnall, is a powerful figure, part Kismet, part undertaker, part nightclub bouncer, part fixer, perhaps part demon, lurking to watch as the drama plays out. His commentaries, sung or menacingly intoned, are essential to the sense of inevitability that hangs over the story as it unfolds.
Alison Crawford is Linda, and she beautifully inhabits the character from a skinny child of eight through teenage vamp to despairing young wife and mother. There is not a weak performance in the whole cast.
The set worked perfectly, the scene changes were seamless. The music was wonderful, from the menacing drum phrase that sounded like “Eastenders” before that soap was conceived, to the haunting song of “Marilyn Monroe”, the bitter “Easy Terms” and the threatening theme of “Shoes Upon the Table”.
The New Victoria was packed, with people of all ages. There were few dry eyes as we stood for five curtain calls. We left with the message and the songs ringing in our ears and minds. Blood Brothers is a musical to revisit, however often you’ve seen it before.
This review has also been published on the theatre page of Essential Surrey online magazine this week. "B;ood Brothers" is at the New Victoria Theatre until 21st January.