On the 27th of June, we travelled down to the Phoenix Theatre in London, the play we saw is called Blood Brothers and is written by Willy Russell.
The play is set in Liverpool and was written in the 1980’s. The 1980’s was known as Thatchers Britain. It was a time where unemployment was high and robbery, lies and deceit were all quite common. The play reflects all these things and also shows the barrier between the different “classes” of people or “ratings” as we could call them.
There were quite a few issues that stood out from the story line. This was something that to me made it an interesting play. It isn’t like a corny program aimed at reducing crime, it is something that people can relate to, the issues are realistic. It is real people in real situations in a real place with real challenges facing them. Although the meetings between the two boys are strange, more unreal, they aren’t quite coincidences. This links to fate in a big way.
Fate is very important to this story line as all the meetings and the shock ending rely on fate along with superstition. The superstition is shown throughout the play as extremely important from the swearing on the bible to the new shoes on the table and with each superstition, the narrator is close behind.
The narrator is a dark figure, dressed in a perfect sharp black suit, whenever there is something linked with fate, superstition or something bad happening, he is always there. Perhaps portraying the role of Lucifer? Waiting for someone to take a step out of line?
Class, as I mentioned before, are shown in this play in many different ways, From money and jobs to living status and even marriage status. The fact that Mrs Lyons only had to snap her fingers and they could move to a different house in the countryside shows how hard Mrs Johnstone had it, who was struggling to keep her children and had a house renowned for only wrong doings.
The issue of loyalty is more hidden in the play, although Eddy is very loyal to his supposed mother and father, he still shows a strong respect for Mickey and his natural mother who he hardly knows. His supposed mother, Mrs Lyons, reacts badly to this in an almost crazed way. Is this a start of her madness? Mickey on the other hand is very loyal to his mother and sees his brother Sammy as a role model, “our Sammyâ€¦” someone who he can look up to.
Friendship also plays a big role. The boys are shown at three separate ages throughout the play, and at each, they manage to remain friends apart from near the end where the mood changes.
Unemployment is another issue covered in the play, it links in with the robbery as it formed a source of money. This led to the jailing of Mickey, which drove him to his drug addiction, another issue. The effects of this didn’t just hit Mickey but bounced off onto Linda and other friends and family in the play. Linda became the main provider along with Eddy.
Linda, from the very start, is shown to be a close friend of Mickey. She sticks up for him against his brother and friends and claims to love him in the teenage years, but she ends up in the centre of all the troubles. Love is an important issue of today, but it is what I would call one of the most important in this play. Although Linda and Mickey get married, whilst he is away in jail, the friendship bond between Linda and Eddy strengthens. When she kisses him it’s like a curse in its own right, taking Mickey to the edge and driving him into madness against his brother. WE must remember that the two boys are twins, could she see Mickey in Eddy? Or the other way round? In a way, Linda is fate as she brings the fate of their deaths onto them.
The mood in the play changed from funny to sinister, but it didn’t occur over and over again, it happened all at once. It seems to arise when the characters make the leap from childhood into adulthood, then everything starts to go wrong. After the fair, when everything seemed to have been going really well, “If only these three could stay like this foreverâ€¦” marks the point where your smile drops, your heart skips a beat and reality comes around.
In the childhood years, it’s all fun and games, school included with cowboys and Indians to swearing at the teacher. In the adult years everything seemed to have gone wrong, with the unemployment, jail, drug addiction and confusion over love.
At the start, the lighting is warm and yellow, making the stage scene look warm and fuzzy. The Johnstone house seems really dark and mucky though, with graffiti on the walls. On the other side of the stage, the Lyons house is clean bright and sharp. As if reflecting the goings on in each house.
In the second half, when the mood was a lot more serious, the lighting didn’t seem as warm. It seemed more blue and clear white light with sharp and if not dark night scenery in the background. This showed the change very well without any words or actions at all, just lighting and scenery.
The story line works because of numerous factors. There are cliffhangers to keep the audience gripped like where they move house just before the interval leaving an open space to what might happen next. The start is a brilliant example as it tells the end at the beginning. It’s a shock start, which interests the audience straight away, and because it’s sad, it makes it more effective.
The songs can be quite emotional, drawing the audience into the story and with all the music surrounding you, it makes you feel a part of it all. Making it so that the tune of one song and most of the words can be kept but still change other words helps the story to flow along. I think it is really effective. “Marilyn Monroe” is a really catchy tune, but the mood of the song can easily be changed by its speed. I thought this to be a very useful idea.
The mixture of really funny and really silly was good in this play but it wasn’t too much as the seriousness tuned it down. The horse riding was ingenious with the cross between Mickey’s version of cowboys and Indians and Eddy’s version of dressage. The shooting was a brilliant insight into the children’s games but it also gave you a glimpse of the big kid’s toys that they would be witnessing in the future. The swearing which seems to pop up isn’t taken offensively by the audience, its put in so cunningly that it’s funny, especially as its young children saying it. The dirty movie and so called “atomic bomb” although rude, add spark to the play and give it that feel of “just a bit of fun” all over again, but in the back of your mind, you wait for the tragedy.
The actors are truly skilled to be able to act three different ages of one character. The ages used are of seven, fourteen and twenty-one. At each age something has to change, the walk is different, the tone of voice, the body language as a whole and the clothes worn. With small changes, the actors age, leaving you in doubt of how old they are. It is ridiculously simple but extremely clever.
Mrs Lyons madness is a slow but revealing process. Like pealing an orange. You get a peek of her true self at the start where she is plotting with Mrs Johnstone, she seems desperate but at the same time you feel sorry for her. Gradually her paranoia overcomes her leading her to be a contributor in her, or should we say Mrs Johnstones son’s death.
In the end I found this play to be extremely enjoyable, the story line although containing big coincidental meetings lies untarnished. From start to finish it had me gripped and although this was the second time I had seen this play, I still wanted, like with the first time, that it would not end in tragedy. Then again, sometimes the better stories are the ones which endings are sad, the ones that leave a deeper imprint on your memories.