Blood Brothers
Rating: ★★.5/5
Venue: New Victoria Theatre, Woking 
Cast: Niki Colwell Evans, Scott Anson, Sean Jones, Joe Sleight, Sarah Jane Buckley and Gemma Brodrick

Written by Willy Russell, the legendary Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences. The superb score includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.

What could be better than a theatre inside a shopping centre?! My two favourite activities combined, plenty of pre-show dining options, a huge multi-storey car park, and fantastic physical accessibility, this was my first visit to the New Victoria Theatre, but it most definitely will not be my last!

Twins separated at birth and brought together by chance with disastrous consequences. In a desperate attempt to avoid social services, a mother expecting twins makes a deal with her rich employer, to give her one of the twins and raise them separately, so that no one should ever know the truth. One mother who can’t afford more children, another desperate to be a mother but unable to conceive, it seemed like the perfect solution, until the past catches up to them and turns superstition into reality. Blood Brothers is an absolute classic, and sadly I felt this production did not live up to its reputation.

The opening of the show was by far my favourite part. A beautiful movement overture without any dialogue that brings the story full circle before it even begins, in such a stunningly clever and touching moment that all takes place behind a transparent gauze curtain; only lifted to clear the picture once the story jumps back to the beginning. 

The stunning set is a huge character in and of itself, its simplicity only feeding the effectiveness and combining with Nick Richings’ lighting design to create genuine beauty. However, it was from this point onwards that the show started to lose me. It felt like priorities were flipped, with the less important parts of the story dragging out for longer than necessary, and the crucial moments being rushed to and through, losing their effect. I didn’t much enjoy the SFX, with both the design and operation seeming clunky and disjointed; rather like sound effects had been added on top of an existing show, rather than them lying underneath and helping drive the story.

Scott Anson as the narrator stole the show for me, with such clever use of the character and carefully defined moments dictating whether the characters were aware of his existence or not. He was present on stage throughout most of the production, usually as a shadowy observer to the action of the story he was telling. Niki Colwell Evans as Mrs Johnstone was fantastic, with vocals for days. She did an incredible job of embodying a character with so much depth and trauma within such a strict, brief and small window of time.

I often find that adults playing children can be really hit or miss in how successful it is, and when it’s a miss it can become cringey and uncomfortable. I really enjoyed Sean Jones’ performance as Mickey, bringing humour and personality to the role without crossing that line too far and losing the audience. I did enjoy Gemma Brodrick as Linda, as well as some of the ensemble. I do think that Joe Sleight as Eddie missed the mark a little bit at times, but in other moments his performance was wonderfully effective and funny. 

I had really high hopes for the climactic final scene but sadly was sorely disappointed. It felt as if they were following the script without really telling the story, and that the famous final moments took place because the script said they should, not because the story unfolding on stage had led to that moment.

Overall I was really disappointed. When a show is such a classic and everyone knows how the story goes, people come to expect certain things from it. When directors create a revival, they often want to go in a completely different direction, and that can be revolutionary, or it can long miss the mark, and sadly, I think this did the latter. Having said that, I had a really lovely experience visiting this theatre, I will definitely be returning and would recommend giving the theatre a visit, they’ve got a wonderful season lined up!

You can book tickets to see Blood Brothers at the New Victoria Theatre (and it's UK tour), here.

Written by Rachel Sarah Leveney

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