Review: ‘Blood Brothers’, Borderline Theatre Co

HEARTFELT: The cast members of Borderline Theatre Co's production of "Blood Brothers". (S)
HEARTFELT: The cast members of Borderline Theatre Co's production of "Blood Brothers". (S)
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True to Willy Russell’s vision, Borderline Theatre Co’s production of “Blood Brothers” captured the tension between the idealistic world presented to twin brothers and the grim reality of social forces determining one’s fate.

The award-winning play, written by Russell in 1981, came to Colne Muni last week to grip audiences. Written two years after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, the play is based in Liverpool, a city suffering the economic downturn of the time. It follows the lives of Mickey and Eddie, twins separated at birth when one is given up by their mother to her wealthy neighbour, with the promise of a better life.

Growing up on different ends of the social spectrum, the boys spark up a friendship, becoming “blood brothers” after discovering their shared date of birth. Tragedy, however, unfolds, and it did so in a masterly fashion in this production.

Mickey’s mother, Mrs Johnstone, a woman bewitched by the glamorous life of Marilyn Monroe, was played by Ann Pollard. The actress, who put on a convincing Liverpudlian accent, mastered a stunning array of emotions and attitudes, from the loss of Eddie at birth to her romantic notion of Marilyn Monroe, demonstrating the breadth of her acting abilities.

Jordan Dalzell gave a heartfelt performance as Mickey, combined with excellent comic timing. The character’s adult life, bereft of the idealism he once held, was portrayed convincingly by the actor. The raw and moving delivery of Mickey’s downfall is sure to resonate in the audience’s hearts for months to come.

Matt K. Bourn charmed the audience with his portrayal of Eddie, the twin growing up with social and economic advantages. Bourn brought out the innocent and polite nature of Eddie as a child in a way that was both humorous and touching.

Tragedy, however, hounds the two families, with the paranoia of Mrs Lyons threatening the friendship of the boys. Elizabeth Rowell made a marvellous Mrs Lyons, mother of Eddie, who fears she will lose her son to Mrs Johnstone. Her mental breakdown was both poignant and haunting.

Linda, the girl who both boys fall in love with, was performed by Annaka Lee, who left the audience in hysterics. Her performance of the girl torn between her love for Mickey and her friendship with Eddie was also enthralling.

The props and scenery, kept to a minimum, reflected the dire reality of the city, stripped of its wealth, and the bare existence of the working class. The use of space was also effective, with the narrator moving to different levels throughout the room. At one point, Mrs Johnstone stood right before the audience, as if in intimate conversation, allowing the audience to share her sorrows over housing.

Engrossing its audience, this production of “Blood Brothers”, which exhibited the remarkable skills of director James Bateman, is one for all ages and theatre-goers. Borderline’s powerful production, an accurate depiction of Russell’s criticisms of English society, proves exactly why the play graces stages all over the world. And, with the way it reverberates with you long after the final scene, the production exudes the timeless quality that makes this play such a classic.

By Laura Longworth