Arena Theatre presents Willy Russell's
Directed by Bernard Dunleavy with permission from
Fast moving and perceptive, entertaining and thought-provoking, funny yet ultimately tragic, it tells the tale of twin brothers who are born into a large working-class family and what happens when their mother decides to have one of them adopted. Blood Brothers looks at the differences and conflicts of their upbringings, their relationships with each other and with their real and adopted mothers.
- Performance Dates
- There are no scheduled performances of this production.
THE Christchurch-based Arena Theatre Company put on a polished and highly entertaining production of the 1983 musical ‘Blood Brothers’ at the town’s Regent Centre. The funny yet ultimately tragic tale follows the lives of twin brothers born into a large working-class family and what happens when their mother has one of them adopted by an upper-class family because she cannot afford to bring them both up. Playing the brothers were Tom Ford as Mickey and Sam Stevenson as Edward. Both gave extremely funny and strong performances as the play tracked their growth from children to young adults. At times they had the audience in fits of laughter. Directed by Bernard Dunleavy, the play detailed the differences and conflicts of their upbringings: Mickey with his real mother Mrs Johnstone, superbly played by Louise Thomas, and Edward with adopted and sometimes highly strung mother Mrs Lyons, who was well portrayed by Natasha Green. But the boys become best friends and the story looks at their relationship with each other and their mothers. Pete Griffiths’ exuberant performance captured the aggressive nature of Mickey’s older brother Sammy, and Jenny Trapp provided some comedy moments as Mickey’s friend and later partner Linda. James Hoare was competent as Mrs Lyons’ husband. Throughout the play a convincingly menacing narrator (Pete Beebee) and chorus (Charles Furness, Penelope Wright, Barry Gunner and Eben Skilliter) vocalised the thoughts and fears of the mothers: Mrs Johnstone’s regret at giving her child away and Mrs Lyons’ superstition (which she tells Mrs Johnstone) that if twins separated at birth learned they were once a pair they would both die immediately. The cast spoke in unfaltering Liverpudlian accents and music from the 1950s through to the 1970s marked the passage of time, providing a perfect soundscape to the story. The set showed the brothers’ separate lives by transforming into different houses on either side of the stage. The story was gripping and the two hours 10 minutes running time flew by. In a dramatic final scene Mickey, armed with a gun, confronts Edward but is shot by officers and accidentally kills his brother just as their true relationship is revealed. Arena Theatre’s production was energetic and professional. It kept the audience engaged and made for an enjoyable evening at The Regent Centre.
HAVING sobbed my way through countless productions of the musical version of Willy Russell’s story, I was concerned that I would feel that something was missing in this ‘straight’ play – but far from it. It actually seemed that the storyline was stronger without being interrupted by songs, wonderful though they are. The tale of the Johnstone twins is so familiar that an explanation of the plot is, I hope, unnecessary. Suffice to say that it is set in 1960s Liverpool – a fact well depicted by the costumes, various pieces of background music and some pretty impressive Scouse dialect. And the ‘opening out’ set, designed by Kate McStraw, worked a treat. I understand that there were a number of enforced cast changes that made the rehearsal process somewhat complicated, but it certainly did not show in any way, and Bernard Dunleavy’s production was absolutely superb. The Narrator (an excellent, malevolent Peter Beebee) and ‘Greek Chorus’ were on stage throughout, the latter playing small roles -Eben Skilleter was particularly notable - as well as serving as scene shifters, while James Hoare (Mr Lyons) and Pete Griffiths (Sammy) made the most of their small roles. Louise Thomas (Mrs Johnstone), Natasha Green (Mrs Lyons) and Jenny Trapp (Linda) all gave marvellous characterisations but it is, of course, the twins around whom everything centres and Tom Flood (Mickey) and Sam Stevenson (Edward) simply could not have been better, portraying both their child and adult selves to perfection. The story, of course, culminates in the deaths of the brothers and is always a tear-jerker – but it is only fiction. Real life can be equally cruel and Friday night’s performance was dedicated ‘to the memory of Aidan O’Neill, a beautiful and passionate boy who will live in our hearts forever.’ 12 year-old Aidan was tragically killed in an accident while on his way to school on Wednesday. His parents, Linsey and Steve, have long been involved in the local theatre scene and Aidan was beginning to follow in their footsteps. Earlier this year I saw him play the Mad Hatter in a production of Alice In Wonderland and it was clear that he had potential. Sadly that potential will not now be fulfilled.