In Liverpool, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers needs no introduction. The tragic tale of twin brothers separated at birth who, though raised just streets apart are worlds apart in terms of class, wealth and opportunity. It is the tale of two mothers’ yearning. One for a child of her own, the other for a better life for herself and her children.
The Liverpool Empire is home to Blood Brothers until Saturday 14th September and last night was full to bursting with school and college parties. Judging from the excited chatter at the interval and the tear stained faces at the close it was went down well. I have seen various productions of the musical since I was a teen but last night was the first time seeing it as a mother myself.
This time eight years ago I was fat as a house, a shattered, knackered, shell of a human having been through a 3 day labour and emergency c section. I’d worked as a nanny, a teacher, with kids in care- I thought I had a clue what to expect. Spoiler alert…I didn’t! Who does?! You can read every book, buy every ‘must have’ and listen to every word your midwife says but, until you are doing it, until you are mumming, day in, day out, you don’t know. None of us do- we don’t know what decisions we’d make and the impact we would have on our babies. So why is this relevant to Blood Brothers? Well if you haven’t seen it, read on to find out.
The tale begins in 1950’s Liverpool and offers alongside the principal tale a brilliant portrayal of the socioeconomic history of the period culminating in the depression of the 1980’s. It harks back to a simpler time when kids played in the street, made up games and didn’t have technology to help them ask someone out! Willy Russell knows this period inside out; it is his city and his youth and it shows. He has a way of really seeing people- their struggles, their dreams, their truths and their triumphs. The heroines in all of his work show this perfectly. He is an absolute touch of class.
Watching Blood Brothers with Mr L on a date night to celebrate 8 years of parenting I was awestruck by the emotion- Lyn Paul gave a sterling performance in her final tour as Mrs Johnson who to me, is the ultimate figure of maternal sacrifice. She gives up her child, knowing that she will carry that pain and that guilt and that secret to the grave for the good of all of her children, the ones that stay with her and the child she gives up.
The story, staging and cast gives the audience a window to the class barriers, the recession, the lack of opportunity, the dole queues. The sense of impotence from Mickey and the other cast members in the dole queue feels really raw and, in our current political waters it all felt a bit close for comfort.
The writing is strong but it is the cast and the orchestra that brings the story to life and the audience to its feet. There are no weak links here, they are all flawless. Mr L, who has, in his own words, “has heard me banging on about this for as long as we’ve been together” * isn’t big into musicals. He thinks that songs are shoehorned into stories that are better without them. Blood Brothers is, according to Willy Russell himself, “A musical for people that don’t like musicals.” Mr L would certainly agree with that- the story is enhanced by the songs and the music but the story alone is so raw, rich, beautiful and heartrending it is a must see- whatever your city, whatever your class, whatever your maternal instinct.
GO. And take tissues.
*What a romantic old fool he is!