Blood Brothers is a tale of two twin brothers separated at birth because the mother was too poor to have both, she strikes a deal with a richer woman who is possibly infertile, in a trade of human life. The two boys grow up unaware of each other, then one day the boys meet and become good friends and finally “blood brothers”, the biological mother of both, Mrs Johnstone, discovers hers sons new best friend, Eddy, is in fact her son. She tells him never to come near Mickey (the other twin), her or the estate she is living on again.
Mrs Lyons (Eddy’s ‘adoptive’ mother) then also finds out the two boys have met and in a state of paranoia decides they must move to the country to remove the risk of the two boys ever finding out that they are brothers, but by some twist of fate the Johnstone family are moved to the country, in the same place as the Lyon family, by the council. But the twins don’t meet straight away, as Eddy attends boarding school. Then one day, whilst on the meadows they meet again and recognise each other.
For years they are best friends, but then Eddy goes to university and everything changes. Mickey gets his high school sweetheart, Linda, pregnant, and marries her. But then it all goes wrong for Mickey and Linda. Mickey is made redundant, and gets into crime to get money, but then is caught and sentences to 7 years in prison, whilst in prison he becomes depressed and becomes dependent on anti-depressants. Linda is in despair, and turns to life-long friend, Eddy to help.
They meet up, it starts as a friendship but a romance buds. Mrs Lyons intent on ruining life for the Johnstone’s goes to Mickey’s workplace and tells him of the close relationship between Eddie and Linda. Mickey, delirious from his pills runs from work to his house and takes a loaded gun to the Council to confront Eddie. He runs into the middle of a meeting and holds the gun to Eddie’s head. He accuses him of getting everything in life, even Linda, whilst he got nothing.
Mickey, extremely upset and confused, breaks down crying. Mrs Johnstone runs into the Council Chamber begging Mickey to not shoot Eddie, revealing that they are in fact twin brothers. At this news Mickey starts screaming that he wishes he had been given away so he could be Eddie. At this point the gun accidentally goes off killing Eddie. At the same time the armed police shoot and kill Mickey. I think the main issue surrounding Blood Brothers is the class hierarchy we have in Britain.
It seems that Mickey (the working class twin) seems to have all the misfortune, such as losing his job and becoming addicted to anti-depressants, whereas Eddy (the middle/upper class son) seems to have it all, even towards the end, Mickey’s wife. A grim narrator takes centre stage at the end and asks if it is fate, superstition, or “that thing we have come to call class,” which is really responsible. Given that the play was written in the economically depressed, socially divided Great Britain of 1983, the suggested answer is unsurprising.
Although I do believe there were other issues surrounding the play, such as the idea that human nature is to be dishonest which is shown a number of times throughout the play, firstly, and mainly when Eddy is given away to Mrs Lyons and both women swear “never to reveal the truth”, then again when Mrs Johnstone meets Eddy and doesn’t reveal that she is his mother. Then again later on in the play when Mickey doesn’t reveal his true feelings to Linda when they are teenagers, and then again when Linda has an affair with Eddy.
Another theme that runs throughout the play is that of Marilyn Monroe. She is used as a metaphor for the story. The life of Marilyn Monroe and the twins corresponds closely. In the first act all is well, and any mention of Marilyn Monroe is joyful. But then as Mickey gets put away in prison he becomes addicted to pills, which as we know killed Marilyn Monroe. Then finally in the end Mickey shoots Eddy, which might be seen as suicide as people say twins are so closely connected, they are the same person. Moreover Marilyn Monroe committed suicide.
I thought the performance of Blood Brother was good, I thought the story line was first-class and I liked the use of a strong character narrating, but I felt that the ending song especially was out of place. The scenery was especially good; it was simple yet effective and they used all the space well e. g. having the narrator figure high up and the cast lower. All the characters were strong but especially the twins. They managed to carry of the roles of young children, then teenagers and finally adults extremely well to the point where it was believable.
It had a good mixture of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ characters, and I felt, having the narrator as not directly part of the story worked exceptionally well. I think the use of a narrator that was not part of the storyline, but a strong character was very effective. I think that Willy Russell may have used the narrator as a different perspective of the play for the audience. The narrator wasn’t biased, but provided a figure for the audience to turn back to if they didn’t comprehend the story, as the story line moves quickly (30 years in 2 and a half hours).
He also summed up each event in a subconscious way; by singing it so we got told again what happened, so it was easier to follow. I think, maybe that the narrator was perhaps meant to be the Devil, as many lines that the narrator sang e. g. “… the devils right behind you… ” he was positioned right behind the person he was singing it to. Also when he appears on the roofs and in the window of the scenery he is alone, and looking down on the cast, in a way, which suggests he is above them, and perhaps, even not of human kind.
I think the use of the scenery, which was not complex but very effective, the use of strong singing and strong characters and also the idea of fate worked well in the play but I didn’t think that a few of the songs worked, such as the ending song ‘Tell me it’s not true’ which I personally found, sounded very much like a Disney song, which I think brought the play down, as I think one of the most important parts of a piece of theatre is a good, strong ending, which I found Blood Brothers didn’t have.
Blood Brothers used some costume change to represent each character, which worked well as you were able to distinguish between each actor. The sound and music were also used quite effectively apart from, like I said before, the last song. The songs, and voice of each actor seemed to reflect what that character was like e. g. Mrs Lyons did not have a particularly strong voice, but wasn’t a particularly strong character. The lighting was also used effectively, it reflected the mood of the scene, such as when the twins had both died it was dimmed, but when the Johnstone’s got rehoused to the country it was bright.
The stage wasn’t predominantly big but it was used to great effect, the different levels made it more interesting to look at, and there wasn’t so much scenery and props it was confusing but enough that it set a scene. The props did play a big part in the storyline, as the shoes on the table was symbolism, that told the audience something terrible was going to happen, but didn’t give much away as maybe it would of if a character was giving hints to the storyline ahead.
There was a lot of action in the play, which there needed it to be if it was to be effective, such as when the twins got shot, it wouldn’t have been as effective as it was if they had done a stylised scene, also using lots of action made the play easier to relate to, as it is harder to relate to characters if they are in stylised scenes, because too don’t get to know their characters on a personal level.
The moment in which Eddy and Mickey got shot had a lot of tension build up, but also an element of surprise, as the beginning of the play tells us that the twins will die, but the fact that the policemen came out of the audience and did it was unexpected, which made people jump, so it was more memorable. The play covers a long period of time (about 30 years) in two and a half hours, which would be quite hard to follow if it was done in a different way than Blood Brothers.
Blood Brothers tells us the story firstly by the script, secondly by song then thirdly by the narration, doing it like this meant that we were told 3 times what was happening so it was easier to understand. I found that the narrator was the most memorable character as he had a strong voice and added an element of creepiness into the play, though in some parts the characters can see and hear the narrator they don’t refer to him in the script, perhaps either because he is the devil in all of us, or maybe a voice in our heads.
I think the issues raised in the play are quite taboo, the idea that perhaps generally all bad things happen to the working class and they turn to crime, and the upper class have it good. I thought that all the characters were superb, but especially the narrator and Mrs Johnstone. Overall, I enjoyed the play and thought it was well written and well acted, even if some of the songs weren’t particularly good.