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

Same tale - different tune

Cast and crew of Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers - the play

The Grange Players

Grange Playhouse, Walsall


MANY people attending this play for the first time must wonder how it compares with the famous Willy Russell musical, but they needn't worry.

There is only one song, when hard-pressed mother Mrs Johnstone, accompanied by a guitarist, introduces the action with those references to Marilyn Monroe and how her husband walked out when she became pregnant for the umpteenth time.

But all the drama, humour and in the end, tragedy, is still there, with a fine cast doing the story justice. The final shoot-out is superbly handled.

Sam Allan is totally convincing as mother-of-seven Mrs Johnstone who is talked into giving away one of the twins she is expecting, although reluctant to hand over the baby to wealthy Mrs Lyons who can't conceive.

She earns some desperately needed cash as cleaner for Mrs Lyons, but loses that 'lifeline' when her employer fears she is paying too much attention to the give-away child.

Christina Peak excels in the role of Mrs Lyons, perfectly delivering the woman's range of emotions, from joy at having a child at last, to anger and despair when the brothers meet up as seven-year-olds and become unlikely pals and 'blood brothers', despite the obvious class divide.

Fine performances, too, from Robert Newton as the scruffy Mickey, and Adam Worton, the posh Eddie, who both fall for the same girl, Linda, played with bundles of enthusiasm by Natalie Webster, which triggers the tragic finale.

As the boys grow up, Mickey lands a tedious job putting cardboard boxes together, becomes redundant and popping pills to cope with depression, while Eddie lives the good life and enjoys a university education before becoming a company director and councillor.

When Mickey, now married to Linda, discovers that his escape from the dole queue has actually been arranged by Eddie who has been seen dining out with his wife, his anger becomes lethal, their old friendship forgotten.

David Thane is the suitably menacing Narrator who prowls the stage and warns that tragedy could be round the corner should the boys ever learn they were parted at birth, and there are solid contributions from Christopher Waters (policeman and teacher), and Aaron Armstrong-Craddock (milkman, gynaecologist and policeman).

The set is very similar to the one used in the musical, except that the name 'Liverpool FC' is more prominent than Bill Kenwright's Everton amongst the graffiti on the wall! Was a Reds fan responsible for that? Other changes include the absence of Mickey's thuggish older brother, Sammy, Mrs Lyons' husband, and the prison scene..

Directed by Rachel Waters and produced by Robert Onions, the play runs to 25.05.13

Paul Marston 

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