New Theatre, Oxford
It was my third visit to see Willy Russell’s much loved production of Blood Brothers, and it’s telling when after a hat-trick of trips, I could return again and watch it another three times, at least.
The sorry tale of the Johnstone twins who were separated at birth in a bargain between two desperate women, Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, is loaded with toe-tapping and poignant musical numbers. This particular production boasted a cast who worked together as one, so seamless were there transitions that they seemed to second guess one another.
Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone was dream casting, she built the role up steadily and with subtlety which was mirrored as she moved through the various popular tunes. Easy Terms was outstanding, A Light Romance was beautiful and Tell Me It’s Not True hit the rafters and was a moment I’ll not forget in a hurry. Paula Tappenden as Mrs Lyons was a match for Ms Paul. She begins as a woman hell-bent on having a baby by whatever means possible and willing to pay off Mrs Johnstone to do it, slowly Tappenden leads the character to despair and performs as a ‘woman on the edge’ incredibly well. Her vocals are stunning and I expect she would also make a superb Mrs Johnstone.
Sean Jones played Mickey and he was spot on, it was almost difficult to believe that he had played the 7 year old (who was nearly 8) at the start of the show when he moved on to play the character in his older years. Long Sunday Afternoon was exceedingly well done, excellent vocal ability. Kris Harding is the best Narrator I have seen so far, brooding and almost menacing, yes but also showing much remorse for the events as they unfolded. Shoes Upon The Table is my personal favourite and Harding performed it beyond my expectations. A mention must also go to Graham Martin who played multiple roles including the father of the Johnstone kids, two teachers, a policeman, a street kid and the rather randy judge!
Miss this show at your peril, even if you’ve seen it before it still has the capacity to grab you, send you spinning on an emotional journey and, as was evident at the performance I attended, bring the audience to their feet amid rapturous applause.
Here’s the link for tickets and further details: http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=643