Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 21 March 2014
Blood Brothers, March 22, 2014 ***
Russell, Manila Street Productions Chapel off Chapel, March 20
until April 6, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 22, 2014 Stars: *** Review also published online in Herald Sun on Wed March 26, 2014 and later in print. KH
Blood Brothers, Willy
Russell’s 1983 comic-tragic musical about twin boys separated at birth, is a
scathing social commentary on the British class structure and nature versus
The musical elements are
enormously successful in this production, not only because of Russell’s
memorable tunes and gritty, witty lyrics, but also because of the accomplished
three-piece band and assured musical direction of Andrew Patterson.
In the slums of Liverpool
in 1958, Mrs. Johnstone (Chelsea
Plumley) discovers that she is expecting twins after being abandoned
with seven kids by her husband.
Her fatal error is to
give one twin to her childless employer, Mrs. Lyons (Glenda Linscott), who is desperate for a baby, but superstition
dictates that the boys must never know that they are brothers or they will die.
This combination of
primitive superstitions and Mrs. Johnstone’s Faustian bargain with the devil
sets in motion events that ultimately end in tragedy.
Russell’s writing is
audacious and funny, retaining the earthy, didactic quality of its original
incarnation as educational theatre for youth, and deftly incorporating rhyme in
both dialogue and lyrics.
Director, Chris Parker,
merely suggests the 1960s and 70s with simple costuming, and stages his
production in an almost empty space, focussing our attention on characters,
relationships and songs.
is undoubtedly the star as Mrs. Johnstone, delivering a convincing performance,
nuanced characterisation and captivating singing, particularly in her poignant
renditions of Marilyn Monroe and Easy Terms.
Keegan is magnetic and mischievous as
Mickey, the cheeky twin that stays with mum, and his voice has a bright,
Keegan skilfully balances
the innocence of the child Mickey with the despair and barely repressed rage of
the damaged adult, and his poetic, childhood monologue, I Wish I Was Our Sammy,
is sweetly affecting.
As his blood brother and unwitting nemesis, Eddie, Matthew Bradford is a suitably gauche
upper-class twit, and his tuneful voice blends well with Keegan’s in their
duets, Long Sunday Afternoon and My Friend.
Wilton brings an edge of danger to the role of Narrator, playing the
character’s ominous, rhyming dialogue with ease and delivering his potent song,
The Devil’s Got Your Number, with passion.
captures the fragility and fierceness of Mrs. Lyons while Lisa-Marie Parker is
feisty and sassy as Linda, the girl whose love finally divides the twins.
There are numerous
musical highlights in this production, particularly from Plumley and Keegan,
but the direction and choreography are patchy, while the acting and accents are
There will always be
slicker productions of Blood Brothers, but this version has sufficient merit to
make it a must-see if you have never seen the show.
By Kate Herbert
Chelsea Plumley Mrs Johnstone
Gareth Keegan Mickey
Matthew Bradford Eddie
Josh Ellwood, Glaston Toft, Lisa-Marie
Parker, Simon Wilton, Martin Lane, Hilary Watts, Glenda Linscott and Peter