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A critique of the musical blood brothers by willy russell

Blood Brothers - Critique.

For me, Willy Russell 's Blood Brothers wasn't exactly that when I saw it at the age of 18, I'd already developed a theatregoing habitbut it did make a tremendous impression. If I'm calculating right, it was Friday 7 January 1983, and I'd managed to buy a ticket for a preview performance in the very back row, upstairs at the Liverpool Playhouse.

It must have been the last seat in the house. At one point in Chris Bond's production, a door jammed and Barbara Dicksonthe first Mrs Johnstone, had to make her entrance round the side.

Musicals we love: Blood Brothers

The audience liked that. We knew it was a preview and it made it more real. We gave her an extra round of applause. Back then, Russell's reputation on Merseyside meant a large audience was happy to turn out for an unknown play. I'd heard about Blood Brothers because my mum, a teacher, had seen Russell's earlier nonmusical version on a schools tour, but otherwise, it was just a new show by a popular local author that everyone wanted to see.

Willy Russell Plays: 2

What excited me at the time was that this was a musical that had everything. Andrew Schofield came on as a narrator who spoke in rhyming couplets "So, did y' hear the story of the Johnstone twins?

It had a narrative arc to match.

  • It also wipes me away, without fail, every time;
  • We gave her an extra round of applause;
  • This was nice work which meant that the melodrama of a kind of OK Corral ending quite appropriate for grown ups who had played cowboys and Indians with real airguns as children did not become sentimental.

That could have been pretentious, except this show was also boisterous, earthy and funny. It had an authentic working-class voice and, in its story about twins brought up on either side of the class divide, it wore its political heart on its sleeve. This was 18 months after the Toxteth riots, the era of Militant councils and Boys from the Blackstuffand to find socialist principles enshrined in a popular musical felt like a tremendous provocation.

It wasn't West End glitz, it was theatre rooted in its place and time.

Willy Russell: 'I want to talk about things that matter’

Recently, a friend told me he'd seen the show on a UK tour and was shocked by how bad it was. I don't know, I wasn't there. Maybe it became something else after 30 years. But back at the start of 1983, Blood Brothers stood for everything I believed theatre could be.

Blood Brothers at the Illinois Theatre Center:...