Review: Blood Brothers, Hippodrome

22 02 2012

Judging by the standing ovation received, it was clear that we were privileged to have seen an excellent production of Willy Russell’s much-loved musical, based loosely on the 1844 novella The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas, often described as “the musical for people who hate musicals”.

From the very beginning of this gritty tale of twins separated at birth and brought up in different social worlds, the lively and powerful performances of the cast kept the tale moving briskly along to its tragic conclusion.

Two actors in particular stood out, Sean Jones as Mickey and Maureen Nolan as Mrs Johnstone, both of who convincingly portrayed the passing of time and the grind of daily life with just the right amount of humour to balance the bitter sweet themes of friendship, love and loss.

In fact, the humour itself – especially the excellent scene where the two male leads so convincingly portray their characters at seven-years-old – is much needed to offset the sense of foreboding present from the start.

This foreboding is accentuated by the narrator whose presence is a little sinister as he loiters on the edge of the action hinting at the inevitable conclusion of the show.

Despite the fact that the play begins at this tragic end before recounting how this moment came to pass, the performances were so good that by the time we reached that point the shock of the brothers final scene was so great that the narrator was forced to wait until the audience had calmed down before continuing.

The music itself was flawless, with the songs themselves interspersed with the spoken word sections in such a way as to feel a natural part of the action.

Mrs Johnstone’s haunting Marilyn Monroe refrain, for example, provided a coherent narrative thread running throughout the show rather than an abrupt musical interjection.

Perhaps this is why people who hate musicals warm to Blood Brothers so easily.

Review by Emma Rawlins and Alison Teyhan

Blood Brothers is at the Bristol Hippodrome until March 3 Click here for more info.


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