Review: Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Thomas Howells visits Wales Millennium Centre for his first experience of Willy Russell’s classic musical Blood Brothers.

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is a beautifully told social commentary on wealth, status, family and friendship and tells the story of two brothers separated at birth but reunited in their childhood with no knowledge of their relationship.

The musical, which opened at Wales Millennium Centre on Tuesday evening, conveys much of its atmosphere through stage design. Set in Liverpool during the 1960s, the suburban-stylised street set immerses you in the story as we see the conditions poorer families lived in, while wealthier families only appear on the second level of the set conveying their status.

Dark lighting shows a lack of hope which particularly fits with the character of Mrs Johnstone, a character who is trapped in her lifestyle and clearly in survival mode. Bland colours in the set bring out an urban feeling, conveying there are few life choices for the characters, this is their life and existence.

Blood Brothers message of social equality is perfectly conveyed in a well-paced story with the portrayals of working-class Mrs Johnstone and upper-class Mrs Lyons serve as two extremes of social classes that are unified through the secret bond of their children. This reminds the audience that behind the classes, everyone is ultimately the same.

Niki Colwell Evans is a perfect fit for the role of Mrs Johnstone, a mother doing her best, while trying to give her children what she could never have against all odds. Miss Colwell Evans makes the role believable as she bounces back from the hurt of been separated from one of her babies and still tries to be a good mother to her other children.

Josh Capper and Jay Worley are totally enthralling as Mickey and Eddie, the two unknowing brothers raised in different classes but having so much in common. The pair create many comical and dramatic moments which makes the story more enthralling as they play the boys developments from 7-year-olds to adulthood.

Carly Burns captivates the audience as Linda, the boys love interest, but also a well-defined strong character, that you grow to feel a lot of affection and empathy for as the story unfolds.

Paula Trappenden plays Mrs Lyons with great sensitivity as an overprotective person trying to not lose the son she has gained. There is also ensemble cast members doubling up in a variety of supporting roles, helping the story move smoothly along.

Stitching the Blood Brothers story together is Richard Munday’s omnipresent narrator who weaves in and out of the musical numbers and scenes with ease while maintaining a strong presence.

Despite Blood Brothers sombre tone, the music is varied with songs like Marilyn Monroe and Kids Game been fun in contrast with sadder numbers such as My Child and Tell Me It’s Not True, all of which fit the time frame with a nostalgic feel.

A rollercoaster of emotion, Blood Brothers is an unmissable musical which has you laughing and crying, while keeping you enthralled.

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