Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

blood brothers

Ellis Daker as Eddie, Ray Curran and blood brother Mickey with Flora Deeley's Linda looking on.

Picture Julie Bywater

Blood Brothers (play version)

Dudley Little Theatre

Netherton Arts Centre


Every so often the theatrical gods look down kindly and a real stonker of a production comes along – and this is by far the best I have seen from Dudley by quite a margin.

It even brought a standing ovation, but it was no more than the cast deserved. Willy Russell’s Liverpool fable of twins separated at birth was chosen by audiences last year for the 70th anniversary season, and sets the year off in fine style.

The well-known and much-loved musical seems to come around about as often as the seasons but the play version, despite being the original, is harder to find.

Blood Brothers started life as a commission by Merseyside Young People's Theatre Company for a play to tour around schools. It has just one song, Marilyn Monroe, and fewer characters than its descendant, we never see older brother Sammy, for instance, or any of the other children apart from Linda, for those who know the musical.

Without giving too much of the plot away the play depends upon six main characters and none disappointed – and everyone kept up a decent Liverpool accent, which is an essential in this play.

Steve Coussens was suitably sinister and unemotional as the narrator while Flora Deeley was daft as a brush as the young Linda who slowly becomes more care-worn as she ages and the world weighs heavy on her shoulder.

Alison O’Driscoll gives us a Mrs Lyons who starts as a wealthy, upper middle class wife desperate for a child, but barren.

Rebecca Clee is Mrs Johnson, Mrs Lyons’ cleaner and a woman with seven kids, struggling on the breadline, who finds herself pregnant with twins – no prizes for guessing where this is going.

Despite hardship and now eight kids, she remains eternally optimistic – and supremely superstitious - while O’Driscoll slowly guides her character down into a black hole of paranoia.

Then we have the twins in a plot of nature versus nurture as Ellis Daker’s completely worldly unwise Eddie grows up in a cossetted life of luxury, private schools, university and a family firm waiting for him.

Mickey, on the other hand, is street wise, dangerous and exciting, at least as far as Eddie is concerned when they meet as strangers. Mickey is everything Eddy wants to be – except Mickey has nothing.

The rest are good, excellent even, but Ray Curran is a stand out as Mickey, going from the happy go lucky kid to the young man battling the world – and losing. His descent into penury and despair is a message which is unashamedly political, and sadly, 35 years on from its first tour of Liverpool schools, still relevant.

It is a convincing and moving performance as we see the cheerful, cheeky child become the empty shell of an adult, with his life being slowly sucked away.

There is good support from Claire Hetherington and Tony Stamp filling in as teachers, milkmen, policemen and doctors while Becky Picken, Andy Miles and Bill Welch provide some lively music for the opening.

The Netherton stage is not the easiest to work with but the simple set works well with intelligent lighting from Andy Rock and it is a fine job from producer/director Lyndsey Ann Parker. To 23-09-17

Roger Clarke


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