Anne Hailes reviews: Blood Brothers

IMG_0795.JPGBlood Brothers
Grand Opera House Belfast
until Saturday 27th September 2014

A Thursday night in Belfast is often busy with late night shoppers but last night there were additional coaches carrying school children from all over Northern Ireland to the Opera House the theatre was filled with teenagers and expectation was high.

Blood Brothers is on the curriculum and what better way to study Willy Russell’s script than to sit in the comfort of the Grand Opera House and see the story played out by a professional cast in this play with music and there’s a song for every situation with heavy emphasis on Marilyn Monroe.

The story is of Mrs. Johnstone (Maureen Nolan) a single parent with an already large family of seven who discovers she is pregnant with twins. What to do? Why not agree to give one of the babies to the childless couple she works for and so, over a Bible in the front room, the deal is made. The Narrator (Kristofer Harding) guides us expertly through developments as the boys grow up, one – Eddie (Joel Benedict) in comfort surrounded by privilege, the other – Mickey (Sean Jones) living with his hard working mother in a cul de sac and that’s just what his life is, a dead end.

The two boys grow in their different lifestyles until the day their paths cross when still children and they are immediately drawn to each other as friends, stabbing their thumbs and pressing their wounds together mingling their blood and so they became true blood brothers, not knowing that in fact that’s exactly what they are.

They meet again in later life, and there’s some fun when, as teenagers, they discuss sexuality and visit an erotic film and we see the two boys growing attraction to Lynda (Danielle Crolass). Eventually Eddie becomes a councillor who can help his brother Mickey and his wife Linda get a home; but in a moment of passion he and Linda express love for each other, Mickey sees them embrace and the blood brothers turn against each other.

A gun is produced, their mother pleads with Mickey to put it away, tells them they are brothers and in the ensuring chaos police sharpshooters come down the aisles of the theatre to the stage, shots ring out and the two boys lie dead.

There are stories with stories, the class situation, poverty, delinquency, single parenthood, teenage pregnancy amongst them. Obviously the young people in the audience identified with both the story and the actors, I felt the production was tilted towards the school age members of the audience and why not but for me there was a touch of farce about some of the scenes although the finale was powerful.

I suspect the majority of the audience hadn’t been in a theatre before and if they are attracted to theatre as a result of this production, that is brilliant. Although they were totally attentive they weren’t drawn into the etiquette of theatre and here I criticise the Opera House and other of our leading theatres – is it a good idea to allow drinks in the auditorium? Even at the interval it was almost impossible to get along the rows thanks to the litter under foot.

Review by Anne Hailes

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