21 Belvoir Rd
Cheshire WA4 6PE
Phone: +44 7725 234022 Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube

REVIEW - No matter what your blood type, donate to the cause and watch Blood Brothers - it's incredible!


We were invited to The Lowry, Salford on Tuesday to see Blood Brothers. Read what our reviewer Karen Ryder had to say about this fantastic production...


It isn’t even a year since Blood Brothers was last in Manchester, breaking hearts and entertaining audiences all at the same time.  Yet I find that everyone I speak to has rebooked to go and watch it again, this time in Salford, because they simply cannot get enough of this deeply moving story with its heartfelt music, funny bones, and Northern humour.  So, I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again;


“Did you ever hear the story of the Johnstone twins?”


It seems everyone has a personal connection or story to share regarding Blood Brothers, whether they’ve read it at school like the many school groups in tonight, know the music, know parts of the script, or have gone to watch it for the star turn who happened to be performing.  People will recall and share with delight the first time they saw it and how they are still moved by it now.  So why all the fuss?  Because this is one of the most popular and accessible musicals out there.  People who proclaim they hate musical theatre will happily sell their own kidney to get a ticket to see this show (well, ok, maybe not – but you get what I mean.  NB – Other organs are available!)  It is a musical that represents different walks of life, allows us to engage in the same story but from different characters viewpoints and different ages, and shows us just how fragile life can be depending on the choices we make.  It has humanity at its very core, exploring class division, love, life, friendship, and family.



Blood Brothers takes place in 1960’s Liverpool.  Life is tough, jobs are scarce, and community is everything.  When Mrs. Johnstone falls pregnant again, and her husband leaves her for a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, she knows that she simply cannot make ends meet.  As she is cleaning for wealthy homeowner Mrs. Lyons, she listens to her grief at not being able to have children.  The answer seems obvious when you are desperate.  Mrs. Johnstone has too many children to feed, Mrs. Lyons has none.  In a contemporary tale of nature versus nurture, we watch as twin brothers Mickey and Eddie are separated at birth, one brought up with wealth, the other without.  When they meet as children, an instant bond is formed, though they have little idea of who they truly are to each other.  Sealing their friendship with a blood pact, they become blood brothers and set in motion a series of events that intertwines their lives forever.  As Mrs. Johnstone discovers who Mickey’s new friend really is, she is torn between keeping them apart and welcoming her long lost son with open arms.  But Mrs. Lyons has no such issue and does everything she can to destroy any chance of the happiness they may bring each other.  Guilt, anger, loss, and love form a dangerous cocktail of emotions and one bad choice, or one bad lie can set you on a path of self-destruction.  We watch helplessly as Mickey is ground down into a deep depression, whilst Eddie seems to thrive.  Does fate rule our lives, or are we the epitome of our own choices?  The young Mickey and Eddie that we meet, so full of life and joy, have no idea that their past will determine their future and end in tragedy.  It is heart-breaking.



The show dramatically opens drenched in red light, symbolic of the blood pact, the blood spilt, and the looming danger.  Echoes of the songs to come whisper and crescendo throughout the theatre, building momentum via a spine tingling orchestra.  Electric drums match your own heartbeat as the actors solemnly make their way on stage to ‘begin at the end’.  We are forewarned that this show will end in tragedy, but it does nothing to ease its impact when it occurs.  Mickey and Eddie are lain out, respectfully covered by a sheet, whilst Mrs. Johnstone and the Narrator guide us through the opening of the show, setting the scene of her circumstances and edging ever closer to the moment that seven-year-old Mickey bursts onto the stage playing Cowboys and Indians.  This sudden gear change gives you a false sense of security that the show won’t really go there.  Surely it can’t take away this young boy fizzing with imagination, energy and the pure innocence of youth?  Surely it can’t allow anything bad to happen to these children?  But they are not children when it happens and the fact that we see their story from them being youngsters is an interesting psychological insight into why is breaks you so much.  If we had merely picked the story up from Mickey and Eddie being adults, would we feel as distraught?  Would we offer judgement instead of empathy?  Would we blame them instead of routing for them?


There is so much to love about Blood Brothers that it’s hard to pick out best bits, because that implies that there are bits that aren’t as good, and every second of this musical has been cleverly planned out so that none of it is wasted, secondary, or worthy of being called anything less than a best bit.  There are moments which always seem to stick in my mind though, moments of detail, such as Mickey hiding under his oversized and over stretched sweater vest, crying at the cruelty of his older brother humiliating him in front of their friends.  A washing line strung across the stage with several baby grows to represent Mrs. Johnstone’s expanding family, or Mickey feeding his pretend horse to make sure he doesn’t go hungry before he is dragged by his ear for a telling off.  Hilarious and unexpected one liners delivered by Mickey and Eddie as children, key moments of letting the audience in on the joke such as when the milkman doubles up to play the doctor and references this fact with a joke, and the energy provided in numbers such as ‘Kids Game’ that all ages can relate to as we follow the bizarre but serious rules that kids make up for their street games, and the eerie parallels that seem to have followed through into our adult lives.  The ‘Our Sammy’ monologue, which was performed superbly, and again drew the audience in as Mickey came and sat right on the edge of the stage, and the emotion inducing moments such as ‘Easy Terms’ and ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’.  Blood Brothers doesn’t politely try to invite you into its story, it grabs you by the scruff of the neck and shouts in your face.  It delivers humanity at its best and worst and holds a mirror up to all of us.  You will laugh, you will cry, you will jump, you may even scream, but you will not forget the night you went to watch Blood Brothers.



After seeing Niki Colwell Evans (X Factor, Kinky Boots, previous Blood Brothers production, Legally Blonde) perform as Mrs. Johnstone early this year, and still not being over the experience, I was thrilled to see her in the role again this evening.  I honestly didn’t think it possible, but she has got even better!  Her portrayal of grief broke me.  It truly broke me.  I felt everything I was supposed to feel through her performance, and it was so realistic the girl next to me turned to her partner and asked him, “Is she actually ok?”  A raw and moving portrayal of a mum who loves her kids so desperately that the worst answer seems like the only answer to make sure they are all provided for.    


Richard Munday (Mamma Mia, The Mikado, Phantom) is a strong presence as the Narrator.  Intimidating, threatening, and brutally honest, this is one of the best portrayals I have seen.  Audiences often giggle at the Narrator as they try and work out the purpose of the role, but tonight Munday kept us all well within his grasp and guided us throughout, ensuring the darkness of what had happened was never to be lost in the fun and frivolity.  He holds a mirror up to Mrs. Johnstone and Mrs. Lyons, ensuring they can never escape their actions, and therefore ensuring that we never forget.  He commands with a look, a sneer, a hand held out, a body block.  It is an impressive performance.



Mickey was performed by the amazing Sean Jones (The Turnip Field, Macbeth, resident comic at The Floral Pavilion New Brighton).  It truly struck me tonight what a demanding part Mickey really is. From an impish seven-year-old boy full of enthusiasm and verve, right through to the chronically depressed, drug dependent adult he becomes, Jones makes Mickey accessible and understandable every step of the way.  You can’t help but fall in love with the cheeky rogue that bursts onto the stage on the back of an invisible horse, and through his carefully crafted and detailed storytelling, Jones keeps our loyalty with Mickey throughout his whole harrowing journey.  His is such a talent that you can be forgiven for forgetting that the tragic figure by the end is the same actor who started out spitting in the air then rolling it around in his jumper.  Fantastically believable.


Eddie was brought to adorable life by Jay Worley (Jack & The Beanstalk, The Santa Trap, Casualty).  He was endearing, charming, and full of youthful innocence.  He was able to flip from humour, to tears, to compassion, and your heart broke for him just as much as it did for Mickey.  Worley found the ying to Jones’ yang and their creative partnership underpinned the entire show.  Carly Burns (Hairspray, Tommy, Cinderella) completed the complicated love triangle as Linda.  Funny, light-hearted, serious, and sassy, Burns was a strong female presence who distinguished her different relationships with Mickey and Eddie beautifully.  Paula Tappenden as Mrs. Lyons bravely showed us an honest descent into the loss of her mind, while Tim Churchill as Mr. Lyons juxtaposed this with a detached and dismissive nature.  They made a great team.  Timothy Lucas as Sammy was wild, untamed and a little scary – even as a youngster, which is exactly what Sammy is supposed to be, and this had to be believable to allow us to buy into how Mickey ended up in the position he did.  Lucas certainly made this believable from the get-go.



The set is a piece of art, truly placing you in those Liverpool streets, with terraced houses lining the side of the stage, the warm glow of lights beaming out from an extremely busy working family home.  The contrast to detail given to the Lyons home is brilliant – even the space it is afforded on stage, captures the difference in class and helps guide our thought process.  Backdrops are layered in through the opening sequence, with graffitied walls, wrought iron bridges, over a Liverpool skyline that slowly wakes up.  Blue flashing lights depict a police presence.  The empty and derelict area highlights the life that Mrs. Johnstone and Mickey have.  Multiple levels are used as balconies, drawing our eyes in every direction and as the timeline unfolds, sets are dropped in which take us to the fair, the country, prison and the council.  It is quick, effective and helps guide the story.


I have seen Blood Brothers four times now, and every time it has been to a busy and enthusiastic audience.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it is a British institution.  I implore you to watch Blood Brothers because if nothing else, it will highlight that even if life throws a pile of doo dah at you, it is the choice that you make in response to the doo dah that seals your fate, not the doo dah itself.  Had Mickey have made a different choice regarding helping Sammy, the story would have ended differently.  Had Mrs. Johnstone made a different choice regarding her circumstances, or Mrs. Lyons chosen not to voice her maternal needs, we may not all be left sat in the audience ugly crying at the ending.  Sometimes, life sucks, there is no escaping that.  Blood Brothers allows you to question how our response to that suckiness can alter our path and impact our lives.  The injustice involved leaves you reeling so much that it is impossible to overlook the questions running round your head, and the various alternative ways your mind is probably screaming out that things could have been handled.  I’ve never viewed the show this way before which just goes to show that Blood Brothers always has something to say, always has something to teach you, and will always provide you with a different experience depending on your own current circumstances or mind set at the time of watching.  I’d say that is why audiences return time and time again to watch this beautifully penned show by the incomparable Willy Russell.  It never fails to deliver, it never fails to entertain and it never fails to make you appreciate everything you have in life.


You can see this amazing production at The Lowry until Saturday 22nd October.




Follow Us
Join Our Free Mailing List