The play ‘Blood Brothers’ was written by playwrite Willy Russell in the 1980’s, which is also when it is set. It is based in and around Liverpool and follows the lives of twin brothers who are separated at birth and live apart, oblivious to each other’s existence. Micky stays with his mother (Mrs Johnstone) who cannot afford to have two more mouths to feed and (Mrs Johnstone) sells her other son Eddie to a rich couple who are unable to have children. They meet up again and become best friends growing up together. After dabbling in drugs, women, robbery, guns and the counsel, they end up hating each other. Not until the end when Micky is near breaking point and Eddie heading that way, do they find out they’re brothers.Order now
I enjoyed this play very much. It has a plot which slowly builds up the tension and drama, starting off with the two brothers being as happy as can be and builds up to the climax. It is a gradual crescendo of tension and excitement as their lives get worse and worse as the play goes on. The mood of the play distinctively changes around half way through. After the audience is shown the end scene at the start of the play the plot is quite light hearted and has some very funny moments, like the conversation between Mickey and Eddie when they first meet and the almost slap-stick scene where the children are playing cowboys and Indians.
Then the play takes a turn for the worse (from the characters’ point of view) and changes from a comedy-drama into an all out tragedy-thriller. Even in the first half of the play there are moments cut away from the cheerful and humorous atmosphere the children grow up in, that remind the audience of Eddie and Mickey’s fate. These moments usually involve Mrs Lyons and more often Mrs Johnstone and are followed by the narrator chorusing ‘The devil and he’s got your number’.
These little scenes are added to build up tension, something Russell does very well. He relaxes the audience with comedy and keeps adding these very emotional and strong scenes to bring the audience back to reality with loud music and powerful lighting effects. Humour is also used to keep the audience interested and balance out the conflict and sadness in the play. As the play progresses we see less and less of the comedy, as the plot gets down to the struggles of growing up they both have to face, into and approaching adulthood.
As well as being an enthralling play it also tackles some hard social and moral issues. I feel that Willy Russell must be a very socialist person or has a great understanding to the working classes as I feel the main issue this play raises is class. The characters of Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons are a good contrast, almost an antithesis both in class and personality. Throughout the play Russell puts the audience under the impression that the upper classes always have the upper hand, adding little sequences to influence this such as: when Micky and Eddie are apprehended by a policeman. He is very polite, friendly and almost apologetic towards Mr and Mrs Lyons whereas he is the complete opposite with Mrs Johnston, insulting and threatening her and her family. Ironically at the start of the play, although the Johnstones are very much living ‘on the breadline’, they begin the play very cheerfully, compared to the Lyons who never seem content.
The play is based almost entirely on this philosophy as Micky’s life gradually turns into a living hell and although Eddie is not happy towards the end of the play he is a lot better off than Micky even though Eddie may have worked harder as an adult. It is also very ironic how Mrs Lyons has more money than she knows what to do with and yet can never be happy, as she is unable to have children. On the other hand Mrs Johnston has more children than she knows what to do with and is scraping a living to try and provide for them.
There are several other issues running throughout the play, most of which are based around superstition: fate, luck, truth, lies etc. The whole play is based on the superstition that if Mickey and Eddie discover they are brothers they will die, which of course they do. This almost drives Mrs Lyons insane and throughout the play does whatever’s within her power to stop Eddie finding out. She even tries to kill Mrs Johnstone, which is a great scene and is a perfect example of the conflict in the play.
There are many forms of conflict in ‘Blood Brothers’, physical, verbal, overt and covert, which is what makes the play so tense. When Mrs Lyons argues with Mrs Johnstone just preceding Mrs Lyons attack with a knife there is fantastic verbal conflict which builds up the tension by using short, sharp lines like “Don’t lie!” during their very gripping argument. Mrs Lyon’s attempted stabbing on Mrs Johnstone releases this tension; this is something that Russell does a lot in this play; release tension in one swift moment which has builds up over the preceding scenes. This is also physical and overt conflict as it is meant to be seen, much like the final scene when the shootings take place (also an example of sudden tension release).
Another great way that Russell builds suspense is repeating techniques and images. There are many throughout the play such as the moody and intimidating lighting that mirrored Mrs Lyons emotions in her panicky and edgy moments on stage. The appearance of a mysterious narrator is a good repetitious devise; he not only sets the scene but always adds very philosophical and meaningful interpretative verses that really make you think about the play and see it from a new perspective. Reoccurring songs and verse give the audience a sense of familiarity and relationship towards the character or situation, for instance as Mrs Johnstone tells her story at the beginning of the play she sings: “Like Marilyn Monroe, and we went dancin’…” This song is appears again several times in the play and as a result although Mrs Johnstone is not a main character you feel as close to her as Mickey and Eddie.