Skip to main content

Review of Blood Brothers at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

A theatre in the east midlands, a thousand people stand applauding and cheering towards a stage where fourteen people stand. There on the stage, they bow, and bow, an inordinate number of times. They depart after a time and the lights come up over the capacity audience.

So did you hear the story of the Blood Brothers show, how people flocked and came to see them play?
Did you never hear about how we came to be, standing applauding the brightly lit stage this November day?
Come judge for yourselves how this night did come to be.

Blood Brothers was a significant show for me back in 2014, being the first musical that I saw live. Hiding up in the upper circle of the Derngate back then, not really sure what to expect, it was it turned out perhaps the perfect show to graduate me from play to musical that I could choose as Willy Russell's gritty and solid story is as confident as a straight play that perhaps any musical is. So strong is the story of the Johnstone's twins, that it lived a life before as just a play, and one which I have also seen and credit equally in exceptional quality.

This version of Russell's tale has at it's heart a tremendously strong vocal performance from Lyn Paul. Sshe creates the rollercoaster this show is through her brilliant delivery of both songs and the dramatic life moments that are thrown at her character of Mrs Johnstone. Paul, delivers the quite brilliant tunes with power and of course the required emotion. From the many versions of Marilyn Monroe, through to Easy Terms, Light Romance and the finale Tell Me It's Not True. Really one of the best lead performances vocally I have heard personally on tour.

Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone and cast
Beyond the emotional heart of the show are perhaps two of the most challenging, yet for a performer surely most rewarding roles you could hope for, that of the twins themselves Mickey and Eddie. Very rarely, do roles offer such dynamic opportunity as these, playing characters of nearly eight through the traumatic teens and into the early twenties of the eventual sad ending. As Mickey, Sean Jones is a tremendous talent returning to a role he has played frequently before, playing the bouncing and energetic youngster with amazing skill. Slowly evolving over two hours into a lovestruck, and then troubled young man drawn into doing terrible things.

Mark Hutchinson provides the perfect opposite in character of the twins as Eddie, all posh and "soft" and happy to be led astray by his best mate and blood brother Mickey. Their adventures and misadventures are constantly fun and once they have the wonderful Linda (a vibrant Danielle Corlass) in tow, the fun really begins, as does the love triangle.

Dean Chisnall is a solid narrator, bringing his very much rock eighties tunes to proceedings including the brilliant Shoes Upon the Table. He also successfully skulks in the shadows or looms with suitable menace throughout many of the scenes.

The musical numbers are all very well staged as they were in my previous encounter, with the busy and exciting Kids Game one of the obvious favourites. Personally though, my favourite will remain the upbeat nature of the subjectively downbeat song Miss Jones. The set remains generally the same with little changed from the previous production, although I did admire the rather realistic brick effect if that doesn't seem weird.

It's a class show which generally appeals to all as clear from the reception it received and this touring version is stronger than my previous encounter with a better-suited lead, so if you have never seen the show, this is clearly the best opportunity to catch this "musical play", just don't expect the usual happy-clappy end to the average musical.

A stirring production of one of the most poignant musical shows out there.
⭐⭐

Performance reviewed: Monday 6th November 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.
Blood Brothers runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 11th November 2017 before continuing its tour. Details at http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=590

For further details about the Royal & Derngate see their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk


Danny Taylor as Sammy and Sean Jones as Mickey

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Woman In Mind by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I like Alan Ayckbourn, I may only have seen a few of his vast array of plays previously, but all have been a delight, often crazy yes, but constantly funny, and especially in the second act spiralling often into just on the very edge of believable nonsense. With Woman In Mind, acknowledged by many as one of his finest works, my own personal jury is very much out on whether I liked it or not.
What was very good, mostly, however, were the performances, most especially the two that we are introduced to at the very beginning. The prostrate Susan (Nicola Osborne), with sinisterly lurking rake alongside her, and the bag struggling doctor, Bill (John Myhill).
Nicola Osborne has the unenviable task in this play of never leaving the stage, a feat in itself. Add to this the constant weaving of the character's world (more on this later), and you have a role featuring some significant challenge, one that Osborne ably surmounts. I once described Osborne as a "safe pair of hands" in …

Press launch of Sting's The Last Ship at Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton

On Friday 16th February 2018, I attended the official press launch of The Last Ship. In attendance were the writer of the show, Sting, and cast members for the 2018 UK tour Richard Fleeshman, Charlie Hardwick and Joe McGann, with musical support from Rob Mathes.

During the event, opened entertainingly by producer Karl Sydow, Sting and the cast members performed seven of the songs from the show: The Last Ship (Sting), Dead Man's Boots (Sting and Fleeshman), Sail Away (Hardwick), The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance (Fleeshman), What Say You Meg? (Fleeshman) and What Have You Got? (Sting and cast).

Each of these songs showed us a great background to the evocative tale that The Last Ship tells, of a community under attack as its crucial shipbuilding industry begins to fail. The performers and Sting himself delivered the songs with huge passion, despite, as Sting himself commented, the earnestness of the hour, with the event beginning at 10 am.

The Last Ship was initially inspired …

Review of Accused, performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at St Peter's Church, Northampton

Going into seeing Accused, the first devised show by this years third year BA Actors graduates, I have to confess I shamefully knew nothing of its influence, Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol. However, it wasn't a great leap for me to identify that the piece gorgeously sung by the whole cast at the end of this really imaginative piece, was indeed part of the Ballad itself.

The Ballad it turns out, written by Wilde during exile following release from Reading tells of the execution of a man called Wooldridge, a man hung for cutting the throat of his wife. In Accused, we have another prisoner, destined to hang, but cleverly for what remains to its end, an unknown crime. It's bad, pretty bad, clear from the reaction of both prisoner and guards alike, and the Accused's life is generally in danger a great deal, long before the Executioner (played extremely nicely by Georgi McKie) comes to do her bidding.

Playing the Accused, and really rather brilliantly, is Alexande…