As we walked into the auditorium of the Phoenix Theatre, London on Thursday 3rd July to see the matinee performance of the musical ‘Blood Brothers’ by Willy Russell, the first thing that struck me was the vibrant and rich red and gold paint. I also noticed that from the walls and ceiling you could detect what era the theatre was built in. On the walls of the Phoenix Theatre were Victorian paintings and the red and gold painted walls and the red seating all suggested that this theatre was built during the Victorian era.
I sat down on row D, seat 19 so I was quite close to the stage, ready to watch the performance as the house lights dimmed. The seats were very close to the stage making every performance quite intimate. The seating was raked and consisted of stalls, balconies and private boxes. e. g. Set: The Proscenium Arch stage was also raked, and before and partially into the beginning of the performance there was just a black gauze through which the set was visible. As the performance was a matinee the majority of the audience were High School teenagers but there were some elderly/middle-aged people in the auditorium as well.
This meant that the atmosphere in the auditorium was buzzing which was probably due to the teenagers, and the fact that the 1600 seater auditorium was almost full. Once the house lights went down and the rumbled of voices quietened, and the actors entered. The performance began at the end of the story. Through the gauze you could see the deceased Eddy and Mickey being carried off stage on stretchers. Then the gauze was lifted to reveal the set, which looked like this (following page):
The set contained two streets opposite one another; one side was the street where the Johnstone family lived so it looked rougher and poorer, and the opposite side was the street where the Lyon family lived so it looked elegant and grander. The set resembled an 70’s-80’s street. Lighting: Around the stage there were approximately 100 lights. Once the play began and the gauze was still down there was the first piece of significant lighting on the gauze. This was red and blue gobos, which represented water ripples. The red lighting may have been used to represent the blood of Eddy and Mickey, as the play began with the death of the twins.
The lighting on the stage was from the fairy lights used when it was night in the play to resemble the stars. There was also light coming from the windows of the houses in the street because this is where the musicians were seated. Throughout the rest of the play the main gels used were red and blue, but pink and yellow were also used as well as plain white and cream. Blue was used when there was sadness and when the characters were feeling colder emotions. Red was used when there were emotions like romance, tension or when the characters were scared. There was a time when all the different gels were used to resemble lighting of a disco.
This was in the song ‘Marilyn Monroe’ sung by Mrs. Johnstone after the interval. She was describing the way that Mickey goes dancing, so a teenage Mickey came on in a leather jacket and black shades and started to dance madly on the stage to a rock version of ‘Marilyn Monroe’! At the time in the play when Mickey, Linda and Eddy were all teenagers they went to the fair and to show that they were at the fair they used signs which had borders made out light bulbs to make the fair look alive! Music When the house lights went down there was music played that sounded like chants, making the audience aware that the play was about to begin.
This music was recorded music, but the majority of the music was live and was played by the musicians in the windows of the houses. The acting company acted out most of the songs, but some were a completely solitary performance. The song that had the most action in it was a song called ‘Kids Game’, which was sung by all the children all aged between 7-10 so it was a very energetic number to reflect their age. There was a song called ‘The Devil’s Got Your Number’ which was sung by the narrator first, when Mrs. Johnstone agreed to give one of her twins away to Mrs. Lyons.
The song was repeated many more times throughout the play when either Mrs. Lyons or Mrs. Johnstone were remembering the deal they made and all the complications it has, and will cause. As they play goes on and the tension mounts the attitude in which the song is sung by the narrator gets nastier and the volume rises. This is because the two women are now paying for their mistake and are realizing how something so simple can grow in to something completely unexpected. Actors: Mrs. Johnstone – Linda Nolan: She was the mother of the twins and the poorer one out of Mrs. Lyons and herself.
Her class-working class-was reflected in her costume and her accent, as she had a Liverpudlian accent. Mrs. Johnstone’s gestures were a lot gentler and affectionate towards her children than that of Mrs. Lyons. She also has an attitude like she wasn’t really that bothered about whether her children’s laces were tied or their shirts tucked in, just as long as they were safe and well. This attitude was developed by her facial gestures and body language as she used quite a lot of hand movement and she smiled frequently towards her children, even if she was feeling terrible she pus on a happy front just for them.
Mrs. Johnstone stood very close to the other characters, showing how much she trusts people. This trusty nature was displayed to us when Mrs. Johnstone comforted Mrs. Lyons on her first day of working for her. This intimate relationship towards the characters was also shown through Mrs. Johnstone’s body language as she stood close to the characters she was talking to her facial expressions seemed to be very caring. Mrs. Lyons – Sarah Hay: Mrs. Lyons accent was in complete contrast to Mrs. Johnstone’s. It reflected her class-middle class- as she had quite a posh voice.