Review – Blood Brothers, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Review – Blood Brothers, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

By Graham Hiley.

It is not just the audience who regularly return to Blood Brothers time after time – so too do the cast.

Willy Russell’s powerful and provocative piece stays with anyone who sees it – or appears in it.

For the touring production at the Mayflower, 11 out of the 14 actors are returning to the musical following previous stints. And it shows.

That past experience and understanding of the roles – both their own and everyone else’s – bring a greater depth and insight which make this such a tight and emotional production.

Niki Colwell Evans is utterly convincing as Mrs Johnstone. The former X Factor contestant (fourth in 2007) perfectly captures the poverty, the pain and the panic of the mother who gives up one of her twins at birth.

With powerful vocals and a convincing scouse accent, she leads the cast and crowd on a helter-skelter downward spiral to tragedy – and that’s not a spoiler because the ending is also the beginning.

But Blood Brothers’ brilliance lies in the way the audience almost forget the dramatic opening as they become totally invested in the characters as they career inexorably towards heartbreak.

Even then I was willing someone to Tell Me It’s Not True such was the emotional connection created by the cast.

Sean Jones played Mickey perfectly capturing his cheeky childhood escapades and his descent into despair with endearing honesty and anguish.

Opposite him, Joe Sleight was a fantastic foil as the seemingly more fortunate twin who took a very different route to the same fate.

Overseeing it all was the dark brooding presence of Scott Anson, more a harbinger of doom than merely a Narrator. With a dark core of superstition and Fate running through the play, there was never any chance of escaping the inevitable.

There was strong support from Sarah Jane Buckley (Mrs Lyons) and Gemma Brodrick (Linda) while the superb set added to the sense of foreboding.

Thankfully there was humour amongst the heartbreak as the packed audience stayed fully invested in the characters, none more so than Mrs Johnstone whose anguish is almost unbearable at times.

Her helplessness in the face of poverty makes this piece every bit as relevant under this Government as it was when it was first staged in 1983 at the height of Thatcherism. More than forty years on and only the names have changed.

Blood Brothers runs at the Mayflower until Saturday March 2.


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