blood cas cov

Niki Colwell Evans as Mrs Johnstone wishing it was all from a picture long ago.

Pictures: Jack Merriman

Blood Brothers

Coventry Belgrade


Blood Brothers is an old friend these days, we go back a long way, and this was a chance to introduce my grandson to Willy Russell’s quite brilliant musical – he’s 11, nearly 12 as Micky would have it, and he loved it.

As musicals go it has everything, catchy songs that inhabit your brain for days, lorra laughs as one favourite Liverpudlian would have had it, and if you get through the emotional finale without at least a lump in the throat, then your heart was forged in a glacier.

The story is simple. A mother with more children than she can already cope with finds she is having twins, which will be more than she can ever afford to keep, with social services already taking an interest.

A domestic cleaner, she is persuaded to give one of them, unofficially, to her employer, Mrs Lyons, who cannot have children, and whose husband is on secondment away from home. It sets in train an inevitable tragedy with one twin born to a life of poverty and strife, the other a future bright with wealth and privilege.

The familiar tale of class, of inequality, of rich and poor. There is also a familiarity with the cast. Sean Jones joined the production as an understudy in 1999, come the new century and he became Mickey. There have been a few breaks, he even retired from the role, only to be dragged back. This is supposedly his farewell tour . . .well we’ll see.


Niki Colwell Evans as Mrs Johnstone and Nick Wilkes as her husband, soon to leave her for a girl who looks like Marilyn Monroe

He has made the role his own. We know he is not seven when we first encounter him, but he manages to make us believe; he is the mucky kid, no doubt once had strawberry jam tats in his hair, playing cowboys and Indians in his perennial holey, green, no doubt hand-me-down pullover.

Then he is the teenager, nervous around girls, particularly Linda his girlfriend, at least she is in his mind, he just can’t get round to telling her. It’s a mind where hormones, emotions and confidence are in constant turmoil. Confidence wins, by reluctant default, and we have the married Mickey with a bright, if rather modest, future.

A future dashed by unemployment, jail and drugs as Jones gives us the once happy-go-lucky Mickey lost in the darkest depths of despair. The role hasn’t changed over the years but Jones has honed it, subtle changes, giving Mickey more depth, more character, giving him more life.

Much the same can be said of Niki Colwell Evans as Mrs Johnstone, another who has played the role so often, she appears to have become it. Her voice, as always, is a delight and her raw emotion in the final scene is palpable, she really is living the role.  

Blood Brothers is almost like a club, Paula Tappenden is no stranger to the role of Mrs Lyons, having played it many times over the years. Rich and persuasive, Mrs Lyons  takes twin Eddie to fulfil her dream of a child, with the maternal happiness soon turning to eternal torment in her troubled mind.

Eddie, Edward to give him his Lyons name, is naïve, unworldly, more private road than streetwise, and he finds Mickey, rough and ready Mickey, fascinating with a side helping of hero worship.

Eddie, played by Joe Sleight, was in the show in 2015 and re-joined last year and we watch him grow from the gawky, awkward kid, through public schoolboy, to student to councillor, a free ride for those with the right, complimentary ticket.

mom and son

Niki Colwell Evans as Mrs Johnstone and Sean Jones as the fated Mickey

Taking us through it all is the slightly sinister Narrator, played by Richard Munday, who, incidentally, played Mickey in the West End some 17 years ago. He is a mix of Job’s comforter and conscience and displays a fine baritone in his songs of warning and accusation.

Then we have the love interest, Linda, a delightful performance from Olivia Sloyan, who first appeared in Blood Brothers in 2010. She has the innocence of the child, the rather forward nature of a teen, and finally we see her as the wife and mother, the wear and tear showing and weighing her down with an ex-con husband who left prison with just clinical depression and an addiction to prescription drugs to show for his time in there.

There is good support from Timothy Lucas as Mickey’s - and Eddie’s - psychotic brother Sammy, with the plate in his head, and Tim Churchill as the always busy working Mr Lyons, with little time for Eddie and keeping the domestic peace by giving his wife whatever she wants.

Behind them are a hardworking ensemble including Nick Wilkes as a policeman and teacher and Gemma Brodrick as Mickey’s sister Donna Marie. We have bus conductors, milkmen, debt collectors, judges, doctors . . . a whole community from rich to poor creating the world of Blood Brothers.

The saddest thing is that in the 40 years since it was first staged, little has changed in that world. We might not have Giros anymore but much of the life it portrayed is still around us - 40 years on it still has something to say.

If you have ever seen Blood Brothers you will hardly need persuading to go to see it again, if not . . . Blood Brothers is about a life we can relate to, it has characters we can feel for, it draws us in, it has laughs, laugh out loud at times, despair, sadness and ends with all encompassing emotion. It is simply magnificent theatre eliciting a spontaneous standing ovation. Catch it while you can.

Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright the brothers will be making their pact in blood to 01-04-23.

Roger Clarke


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