How Does Willy Russell Use the Story of the Johnston Twins to Convey His Chosen Themes in Blood Brothers? ‘Blood Brothers’ is a play that was written by Willy Russell. First performed in Liverpool in 1982, it was later adapted to become a musical before becoming a worldwide hit. The plot concerns two brothers separated at birth due to their real mother’s lack of money. They become close friends later in life, unknowing of their relation.
The play ends with tragedy when both brothers are killed in a freak accident due to a breakdown of friendship over a love interest. There are multiple themes or alternative meanings running alongside the main plot of the play. Using such a multitude of themes is a brilliant method for getting in touch with more individual readers and building up a greater audience who appreciate the play at may different levels. The added meanings also add richness and feeling to the story of the Johnston twins without overcomplicating it.
The two most important themes in Willy Russell’s blood brothers I feel were the comparisons between the upper and lower British social classes, there were a lot of references to this and it has a lot of relevance to the play and secondly, the insight that is given into Mrs Johnstone’s life and how she had often been confounded with superstition. Other prominent themes in blood brothers include dancing which was part of the life of the character Mrs Johnstone which she misses from being with her husband, the repeated references to dancing and the progressively dangerous use of guns by characters in the play.
The tragic, heart wrenching story of the twins separation and then their untimely death was a very well suited plot to portray the theme of class and how no one’s life is what they would consider “perfect” despite being upper class. Willy Russell used the contrasting wealth of both the Lyons family, A wealthy and well established family which to which Edward was subjected and the Johnstones, a poor, working class family which Mickey was a part of to show the audience how different life is for each of them.
This also puts into perspective how much out upbringing can affect out lives, both twins would have grown up much more similar to one another had it not been for their detachment. These differences in the twin’s conduct are apparent to me from characters behaviour and dialogue in the play, for example, where Edward says “You’re a fuckoff. ” We know from before that “Fuck off” is a term used by Mickey and when Edward mimics him, he misinterprets the meaning having never been exposed to swearing in his upbringing. Mickey on the other hand was not knowing what a dictionary was when referred to by Eddy, he says “It’s a err…
Thingy isn’t it? ” to make his background seem more obvious on stage I would imagine that his character would often be dressed in scruffy, soiled clothing. Throughout Blood Brothers readers are constantly aware of how anxious Mrs Johnstone and to a lesser extent Mrs Lyons are about their twins finding out their secret. The two women are constantly worried of what will come of their “sons”. Superstitions are constantly driving them to despair as they fear that the twins will die at the moment they discover they are real brothers.
Everything in their power is done to stop the imminent from happening, right down to superstitions like not leaving new shoes on the table. This was mentioned early in the play then again later on when the narrator is singing a song of the twin’s impending doom; “There’s shoes up on the table and jokers in the pack… ” Any situation where there is such angst is good for the portrayal of superstition; this plot line however was perfect, superstition I feel was one of the main fictional devices used for foreshadowing the tragic ending in Blood Brothers.
A play written showing the contrasting social classing and wealth of two families was of great use to Willy Russell when portraying his chosen themes. He was able to intertwine Sammy and Mickey’s upbringing with guns and readers are aware of the reoccurring use of guns by the characters. From playing with cap guns as small children, to practice shooting with an air gun as teenagers, to the shooting of a real human beings as adults the story is well suited to incorporating gun violence. Early scenes I would imagine to be depicted with a much more playful vibe when related to guns.
When they are play fighting as children they are always re-assuring each other that “If ya’ count from one to ten, you can get back up off the floor again” when any of the children were playing dead. In my opinion, it was the principal objective of Willy Russell to portray both class and Superstition in Blood Brothers. In the closing scene of the play where both twins lie dead in a bloody massacre, the narrator sings the verse “And do we blame superstition for what came to pass… Or could it be what we, the English have come to know as class?
” To me, this is the line that opens up this discussion and so it is what I have based my conclusion on. By questioning it’s relevance, the text in this quote also discourages people from thinking that the main meaning of the musical is superstition. It was an ingenious and unique idea to base a tragedy on upbringing and is well accomplished one at that. Willy Russell completed this possibly by assuming that people were going to understand the issues associated with life in a lower class family, and then taking them on the journey to adulthood with both twins to further elaborate. This links the plot with the main theme.