In year 10 we went to see the musical Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. We saw the play at the New Wimbledon Theatre on the 2nd of November 2006. It is a story about two twin brothers who are separated at birth but find each other again at aged 7. It shows the standard of living between the upper and working class of Liverpool in the 1960s onwards. The many characters in the play are: Mrs Johnstone (the working class mum), Mickey (working class twin), Sammy (brother of Mickey), Mr and Mrs Lyons (upper class parents) Eddie (upper class twin), Linda (friend of both twins) and the Narrator who helps tell the story throughout the play.
It has many unexpected surprises along the way to keep in you interested. In the play the playwrite Willy Russell explored many themes and issues: class and expectations, unemployment and crime, superstition, loyalty and trust. The twins were altered by their different upbringings. Both went to separate schools, Eddie to a boarding school and Mickey to a state school. Eddies attire at school was a very strict uniform, tie up to the top button, socks to his knees, shoes polished and overall looking very smart. Mickey’s uniform was scruffy and dirty the total opposite of Eddies.
They were treated differently by society by a policeman. Both of the brothers were throwing stones when a policeman caught them and took them home. He had a drink at the Lyons’ house and advised docking Eddie’s pocket money for a while as a punishment. Whereas at the Johnston’s he told Mickey off and saying that its not a joke throwing stones and that he could be fined next time. The policeman only treated them both differently because of their background, purely because of their money. Mrs Johnstone worked for Mrs Lyons as a cleaner, which also shows the class and status of the two families.
Mickey ended up being involved in crime because of his family and background. Sammy was involved in crime already and dragged Mickey in it to help him, as he knew he was unemployed and looking for and job for money to support his family. From the “shoes on the table” to Mrs Lyons and Mrs Johnstone swearing on the bible, superstition had a huge effect on the lives of the main characters. Mrs Lyons wasn’t superstitious at the beginning of the play at the “shoes on the table” song, but as the play carried on she began to feel more and more paranoid and guilty of what was going to happen in the future.
She felt this, as she believed the superstition that twins will die if separated. This helped her to become guilty which ate away at her and in time she becomes mentally ill because of this. The lives of the brothers were based on a lie. They were twins more than friends of what they thought they were. Towards the end of the play Mrs Lyons tapped Mickey on the shoulder and showed him Linda and Eddie standing and talking together. This planted a seed in his head thinking that they were having an affair, which they weren’t. This made Mickey distrust Eddie and Linda even though they were being loyal to him.
Mrs Lyons didn’t trust Mrs Johnstone as she made her swear on the bible when she gave away her unborn child, so she couldn’t go back on her word. Mrs Lyons betrayed her husbands trust, Mr Lyons, as she lied and said that Eddie was his son. There were four couples in the play, Mr and Mrs Lyons, Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, Mickey and Eddie and Mickey and Linda with none of them trusting each other. There was a break down in families no matter what class and status you had. Lots of different drama forms and styles of theatre were used in the production.
These included naturalistic acting, musical drama, direct address and physical theatre. Naturalistic acting is very realistic and believable. An example of this being used on the play is the drug scene between Linda and Mickey in the kitchen. Musical drama is the songs and music used throughout the production. The song ” Marilyn Monroe” was used to help tell the story, changing the meaning of “dancing” to fit what was happening. Direct address was when the Narrator spoke lines directly to the audience to either help the play proceed or explain what was happening. Physical theatre was used in the bus ride scene and also at the fun fair.
People represented a rollercoaster using their voices and bodies and the same for the bus. At the start of the musical we saw the end. It made you ask yourself questions about what was happening? Who are the people lying down? Why is the music so sad and emotional? It was effective as it made you very inquisitive and intrigued to find out more. The actors communicated who they were to the audience through song, voice, outfits, body language and the interaction with each other. The actress playing Linda changed what she was doing to show how old she was and how she felt about life.
She went from an energetic tomboy, to a sexy teenager, to a stressed out mum. Her body language told us that she had grown up by the way she tense and stood right up. He voice was a lot lower and deeper. The Narrator in the play represented the little voice in the back of your mind, your conscience. I felt scared, insecure and timid when the Narrator was on stage as it felt that he would be able to read my mind and so my guard will fall. The fact that he was always watching everyone and often from the shadows gave the impression that he was sly and scheming like a fox ready to pounce on his prey.
His voice was very strong and confident; it gave the effect that he was all knowing and wise. He had a very harsh Liverpudlian accent, which supports my thought that he was conscience the characters in the play were all from Liverpool. He wore a black suit with a shirt underneath which he didn’t change from throughout the musical. It was a lot different from the other characters in the play. I think it was important that he dressed individually as he wasn’t part of the production as a main character in the story line. It also helped the audience not to get confused.
As well as the performances by the actors, the design and staging of the production also highlighted the themes and helped to communicate the status and class of the characters to the audience. The costumes of Mickey and Eddie were very contrasting. When they were younger Mickey was relaxed as a child whereas Eddie was very constricted, as he didn’t mess about and have fun with the other little boys his age. This showed through their clothes. Eddie wore his knee-high socks and polished shoes whereas Mickey wore Sammy’s scruffy old big jumper.
This told us that Mickey’s family couldn’t afford to buy new clothes for him so he had his older brothers “hand-me-downs”. Eddie on the other hand could afford new clothes and dressed smartly because he had the money to do so. The same goes for the mothers, Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons. Mrs Johnstone wears a floral apron whereas Mrs Lyons wears a smart tailored suit. Her outfit kept changing throughout the musical as her character had the money to keep on buying new outfits. She wore jewellery and had her hair styled which she could afford to have done everyday.
Mrs Johnstone kept her outfit the same all through the production, as her character wouldn’t have been able to buy new outfits all the time. Her floral apron however represented that she was a mum who always put her children first before herself. Linda’s costume effectively communicated the different stages of Linda’s life. Her outfits went from a bright yellow dress to high heels and a miniskirt to a dull baggy jumper and jeans. At the different stages of her life her clothes showed the changed, her emotions and what she was going through at the time.
For example when she had a child, she was worried that she couldn’t support her daughter financially as her husband, Mickey, didn’t have a job so there was no income coming in. At this point she was wearing baggy jumpers and jeans, which represented her feelings. Nothing was going for her anymore and her drive and charisma had gone. Other actors changed their outfits aswell, like the milkman who took of his hat, then turned into a doctor. There was also a teacher at both of the brothers schools, who just took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves to change between the two.