Theatre review by Hannah Richardson
2017 has marked 30 years since Bill Kenwright’s production of the hit musical Blood Brothers first toured the UK.
To celebrate, the iconic musical is touring to theatres across the country, where it has received a rapturous reception.
And Milton Keynes Theatre, where the show is being performed this week, is no exception. At curtain call on Tuesday’s press night, it looked very much as if the whole of the full house was on its feet.
And no wonder.
Seldom have I seen such a powerful piece of theatre.
The show, by Willy Russell, author of Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, tells the story of twin boys separated at birth and then reunited by a twist of fate, with tragic consequences.
When Mrs Johnstone’s husband walks out, leaving her to provide for a seven children, she takes a cleaning job to make ends meet.
But to her horror she finds she is pregnant again, this time with twins. In desperation, she enters into a secret pact with her employer which leads inexorably to the show’s shattering climax.
I had wondered whether this musical first staged in the 1980s would seem dated in today’s light.
But a top-notch cast and superb staging make it a gripping piece of theatre that had me howling with laughter and squealing with shock, at different moments.
Topping the bill, former New Seekers singer Lyn Paul was superb as Mrs Johnstone. Her voice is still amazing and her acting was spellbinding.
She genuinely seemed to live the role, evoking sympathy and horror as Mrs Johnstone and we the audience together become helpless bystanders in the tragic drama that is being played out between her two sons. By the end of the show, she looked wrung out.
There were excellent performances too from Sean Jones as Mickey, Mark Hutchinson as Eddie and Danielle Corlass as Linda.
An energetic cast of adults playing kids did a hugely entertaining job of recreating the world of 1960s childhood, playing in the street, worms and all.
(I wonder, did the large number of school-party GCSE students in the audience understand that this was genuinely pretty much how life was for generations of pre-TV, pre-digital children?)
Blood Brothers is at MK Theatre until Saturday. If you enjoy theatre that packs a powerful punch and you can still get tickets, go and see it.
Box office 0844 871 7652 or see www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes