REVIEW: Blood Brothers, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until May 12.

Blood Brothers - Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone
Blood Brothers - Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone

It really is the most remarkable show. Every time you see it, Blood Brothers gets just that little bit better.

You come back to it time and time again, and it never loses its power to shock, never loses its power to move. In fact, as the years go by, it gets just that little bit more poignant every time.

Willy Russell’s modern masterpiece weaves the nature versus nurture debate, tells us at the start exactly what is going to happen, ponders whether it’s class or superstition that’s pulling the strings and completely wraps us up in a ghastly tragedy hurtling towards its inevitable conclusion.

No wonder the cast look absolutely shattered by the end.

Lyn Paul has been hailed as the definitive Mrs Johnstone for years. Those of us seeing her for the first time in the role can instantly see why.

She invests it with its full weight of hope and sorrow – the tale of the impoverished mum who just can’t help adding to her own family numbers, so much so that fatefully, appallingly, she agrees to give one of her new twins away. And yet, we are with her every step of the way. Paul gives us a Mrs Johnstone you just can’t help but warm to – not least because we all know what’s coming.

Just as powerful is Sean Jones’ performance as Mickey, the most horrid of journeys from the exuberant, rough kid through to the addled, prescription-drug-addicted ex-con who can’t see beyond the ruins of his life… and who can blame him.

Alongside him is Mark Hutchinson’s Eddie, the brother on whom the fates seemed to smile. Or did they? Eddie’s got everything except the one thing he wants.

Put it all together, and it’s surely the complete theatrical package – brilliant music, brilliant performances and the most complex tangle of doomed relationships.

This is theatre with real oomph, exhilarating, visceral and perfectly delivered.

Phil Hewitt

For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2

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