Social Media

Blood Brothers - Nottingham Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson

Disclaimed - tickets were gifted in return for a review

"So d'you hear the story of the Johnstone twins?" is delivered as the opening line by the narrator in Willy Russell's Blood Brothers which has been playing to packed houses domestically and internationally for 40 years but does the musical still stand the test of time?

The cast of Blood Brothers. Photo by Jack Merriman.

It's no spoiler to say that the show begins at its tragic end as the two brothers lay dead on the stage, the story then begins as we meet Mrs Johnstone, a working-class mother who is struggling to make ends meet and is pregnant with twins. Working as a cleaner for the upper-class Lyons family who haven't been able to conceive a deal is struck for Mrs Lyons to take one of the babies upon birth raising it as her own whilst the two twins are set to never know about each other's existence. 

Mrs Johnstone is superbly played by Niki Colwell Evans, carrying both light and dark well, she is particularly moving when she interacts with her boys, Mickey and Eddie. Evans has a wonderful vocal tone and vocals that are astounding, particularly in the heart-rendering 'Tell Me It's Not True'

Sean Jones continues his long association with the role of Mickey and it's not hard to see why. Jones has such a familiarity with the part and the journey he takes you on is remarkable. The transformation from a boyish playful 7-year-old through his teenage years to the stark broken character he becomes in the latter part of the second act is like watching an acting masterclass. Joe Sleight matches well as Eddie, playing the opposite of Jones' Mickey, the pair create the key central blood brother friendship with ease and believability that makes the tragedy more impactful. 

Sean Jones (Mickey) And Joe Sleight (Eddie). Photo by Jack Merriman

Danny Whitehead commands a great stage presence as the Narrator, who is both an observer of the piece and also looms as a conscious and somewhat deadly reminder that fate will catch up with the characters eventually. Whitehead powerfully vocalises the musical numbers.

Paula Tappenden's frantic and unsettled Mrs Lyons shows the toll the character goes through as the two brothers unsuspectedly create their bond. Tappenden contrasts Evans in that she becomes a nervous wreck who is constantly on edge. Gemma Brodrick impresses as Linda, Brodrick carries through a blossoming romance with Mickey whilst there's always more than a hint of something between Linda and Eddie, which itself leads to the final sequences playing out.

Andy Walmsley's set design is well thought out and allows the audience to easily distinguish between the classes of the characters with tension and atmosphere provided through Nick Richings's lighting and Dan Samson's sound. Even as you know what is to come the final scenes make an impact through the creative choices as much as the performances. Matt Malone leads a 6 piece band who play the score brilliantly.

Russell's writing is what has made Blood Brothers remain so popular, and whether it's your first or fifteenth visit the show has an emotional impact and yes THAT gunshot still makes you jump! For me, some of the scenes could do with condensing and the musical feels rather lengthy running just under 3 hour running time. 

The themes of the show remain as relevant as ever with the cost of living crisis and class divide but at its centre this is a story about brotherhood, friendship and love. These themes are timeless and whilst the Johnstone twins end in tragedy it's safe to say their story is immortal. Breathtaking performances illuminate this classic.

Blood Brothers continues at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 15th July with tickets available from The tour continues with dates and booking information from 

The cast of Blood Brothers. Photo by Jack Merriman

Post a Comment


Theme by STS