On October 16th I went with my drama class to see a production of Blood Brothers (written by Willy Russell). It was performed in the Phoenix theatre in London, and we saw a matinee performance. The play is set in Liverpool in the 1950 – 60’s, and is about two families. One woman, Mrs Johnstone, is very poor, lives in a slum and is struggling to bring up Several children by herself. She works for an middle class woman, Mrs Lyons, whose husband is away a lot on business. When Mrs Johnstone finds out she is expecting twins, she knows she won’t be able to afford to look after them both.
Mrs Lyons, who is unable to conceive, persuades her to give one of the twins to her, and she’d bring him up as her own, with nobody ever knowing apart from the two woman. Mrs Johnstone eventually agrees, but is very upset about the arrangement. Mrs Lyons eventually sacks her for being too involved with the baby and reminds her that she swore the pact on the bible so she can’t break it. She also tells her that if one of the boys ever finds out he has a twin they will both die. Mrs Johnstone leaves, thinking she will never see her child again.
Seven years later, Mrs Lyon’s son (Eddie) meets Mrs Johnstone’s son Mickey. They don’t know they’re brothers, but get on very well anyway and become friends, and ‘Blood Brothers’ (they both cut their hands and shake them together), even thought they’re so different; Mickey is rough, loud and noisy, while Eddie is polite and well behaved. When Mrs Lyons finds out the boys know each other she tires to stop them seeing each other, eventually persuading her husband to move away to split them up.
Before they go, Mrs Johnstone, who has recognized, Eddie, gives him a locket with a photo of her in. Soon after, the Johnstone family move to the country as well when their old house gets knocked down, though they don’t know that’s where the Lyons are. When they are about fourteen the boys meet again, and stay friends until they are 18, when Eddie goes away to university. When he comes back, everything has changed, Mickey has married his girlfriend Linda, who’s pregnant, and he’s broke because there aren’t any jobs.
Mickey tries to get some money for being a lookout for his older brother Sammy who’s a bit of a criminal, but he gets caught and has to go to jail. When he comes out, he’s on anti depressants, and is convinced Linda is having an affair with Eddie. HE tries to kill him, and when Mrs Johnstone tells them that they’re twins he asks ‘Why couldn’t you have given me away? ‘ Then he shoots Eddie, the police shoot him and they both die, like the superstition says. The play took part on a rake stage. The set was quite detailed, with 2 painted backdrops.
At the start of the play there was a see-through gauze cloth at the front of the stage. This preset was in a red cloud pattern, which symbolized blood. The first scene took place behind this preset, which was effective because it made the audience feel detached, as they are supposed to for that scene before the story begins. For the first act, where the two families are living in Liverpool, the backdrop is of a busy city at night, with small lights at the ‘windows’, which created an effectual urban scene.
Then for the second half, the backdrop was of the countryside, with green fields and a blue sky. The only permanent staging are the two flats on either side of the stage. SL is the Lyons’ house, which is much larger, and in a better state than the council houses SR, one of which is the Johnstone’s’. Each ‘street’ has a different name. The sides stay the same for the second act, but with slight difference, for example the street names and colours of the front doors. The area between the two houses acts as communal ground for street scenes, park scenes etc.
The musicians and SFX were elevated in the upper wings of the houses, which had the advantage of centring the audiences attention on the main stage, but a disadvantage which was that they were quite often visible which was slightly distracting. There were also some pieces of flying scenery, one, which was covered in topical graffiti, that acted as a ‘third wall’ for the scenes outside the council houses and in school, and another which was decorated to look like the inside of one of the homes.
Two brightly coloured, but slightly garish ones were used for each of Mrs Johnstone’s’ homes, and another for the Lyons’. These were lowered and raised on their respective sides of the stage when needed. The actors then changed the minor scenery (tables, chairs etc. ) I though this was good because often stage hands distract the audience but with this method the only people on the stage were the characters which gave the story smooth continuity. The lighting in ‘Blood Brothers’ is very important to the story.