On the 12th of February 2004, we went to the Phoenix Theatre in London to watch a production of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers. This was a play about two twins separated at birth and how they grew up in completely contrasting lifestyles. In my opinion, the play was excellent. The instant the lights were dimmed, I knew this play would be very good – the curtain effects at the beginning were… stunning. Some lights projected blue and red shapes onto the seemingly opaque curtain, and then the curtain seemed to change to transparent…
The storyline was extremely closely followed with minor modifications, which, I think, only improved the production, for instance, a few bits were added (Mickey becoming a rock star for a while and Mickey asking Linda out e. t. c). The costumes used in the play were brilliant, and suited the era and the storyline – Mickey wore clothes that had holes in and that weren’t in good condition, or very clean, whereas Edward wore exactly the opposite – smart, clean clothes.
The other characters were dressed very accurately too – extreme attention was taken to detail – I thought the policemen at the end was real! The milkman and doctor (both played by the same actor) were also dressed realistically. The settings used were also very suiting to the play – the backdrop for the house – the picture, the table e. t. c, also, the street background either side of the action was realistic – the doors that could’ve been painted on actually opened! Subsequently, the countryside setting was very realistic – the fields, although not 3D, looked surprisingly real.
The way the stage was angled also added to the effect of the play – there seemed to be a minor tilt towards the audience, which allowed them to get a better view of the action. The props used also added to the realism of the play, for instance, the bin lids and pellet guns created the ‘street atmosphere’ in those days. Subsequently the guns at the end seemed very realistic – the ‘bang’ they made sounded as if a real gun had been fired. The desks and blackboard also helped the school scene also seem more real. The way the stage was rearranged after each stage was very good too, as there weren’t big pauses.
Instead, the characters moved the props while the others were still in role. This didn’t create confusion, but helped to keep the play running smoothly. Projection throughout the play was consistent and very good – I was sitting near the back, yet I could hear everything the characters were saying (this, however may be due to the use of microphones). The way the narrator spoke was brilliant. He spoke very confidently and clearly. He was also smartly dressed, and the way he was ‘spotlighted’ when he came on also added to the effect and powerfulness of his speeches.
The characters stayed in role throughout the play and never hesitated with their speeches. This improved the play significantly – after all, who likes to watch a play where actors are reading from scripts? The elements of comedy added to the play (Mickey spitting at things, Sammy with the worms in his pants e. t. c) made the play more enjoyable to watch. The actors’ singing voices’ were also very effective – at first, I thought it was dubbed, but no, it was actually being sung. They sang clearly and in my opinion, sounded like the CD.
The way the characters mimed in the background when the main action was going on was also very effective (The people in the background collecting benefit during the ‘It’s just another sign of the times’ song) – I find a play looks ‘lifeless’ if people are just standing in the background. The characters emotions were also fantastic. The crying looked realistic (no muffled laughing) and you could tell when they were upset (Mickey discovering Linda had been ‘involved with’ Eddie), scared (Sammy on the run from the police after shooting ‘that guy’) or angry (Sammy on the bus with his knife).
The cast (Main characters) Mickey: The man playing Mickey was very good with staying in role; also he spoke clearly and confidently, and knew when to come in. He, in my opinion rehearsed well to create an accurate impression of this character that looked real. Eddie: The man playing Eddie stayed in role well and spoke clearly and confidently. This was a part well played, as he even sounded like a posh person (A first-class accent! ) Sammy: The man playing Sammy stayed in role and had an attitude like the character.
He, in my opinion was well suited to this role, and brought Sammy to life. Mrs Johnstone: The woman playing Mrs Johnstone stayed in role throughout the play, also the accent she had was suited to the part (she wasn’t posh sounding). She spoke clearly, and projected her voice well. She, in my opinion played the part very well. Mrs Lyons: The woman playing Mrs Lyons spoke clearly and stayed in role, but the accent she used didn’t suggest that she was that posh. She spoke fairly clearly, and sung quite well – it sounded like the CD, yet it wasn’t dubbed!
The Narrator: The man playing the Narrator stayed in role and spoke clearly and in a tone of voice that was stern, and in my opinion, suited to the play. He made full use of the stage when he was acting – he walked around – he didn’t just stand in one place. He was appropriate for the part he played. I also thought the way that the characters became people in the background when they weren’t acting was brilliant, also, the way the actors changed costumes accordingly was excellent (Mickey changed quite quickly from his ‘street wear’ to his school uniform.
The way the characters interacted with each other was also admirable – there was no hesitation, and arguments sounded like real arguments (were they real?! ), and as I’ve previously mentioned, the characters stayed in role throughout the play – no losses of concentration apparent. This was very good acting, from a cast that knew their stuff! I could learn a lot from this performance – how to improve my stage techniques e. t. c. The way the stage was set out meant there were people all over the stage, not just in one place.
This meant it was easier for the audience to see what was going on (in my opinion), and I thought this was a very effective technique. I also thought the way space was used was very successful – when the narrator encircled someone, it gave the audience the impression that that person was being ‘singled-out’. This on the whole was an outstanding play, and the effects were first-rate, considering there wasn’t a computer in sight. The actors spoke clearly and confidently, and stayed in role throughout the whole play.
The props used were extremely realistic, and helped set the scene and the backdrop looked real. The singing also was superb, considering these people weren’t singers, and the costumes… – fantastic. They helped make the play more enjoyable. Also, the way Mickey and Eddie died at the end was extremely convincing (they didn’t get up immediately), and in my opinion, added to the effectiveness of the scene. Despite the play lasting for over two hours and the seat being rather uncomfortable, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. This was an A* performance and I’d recommend it to anybody!