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

Well Stoked tale of fated twins

Blood Brothers

Hall Green Little Theatre


IT is quite a challenge that Edward James Stokes has taken on here. He not only directs a Willy Russell  play that makes a searing exploration of how an awareness of class affects people who regard it as a battlefield, he also takes the role of Mickey, the twin whom circumstances have disadvantaged in relation to the brother who was given away by their mother. 

It is in  fact  a double challenge, and one to which he rises splendidly. As the director, he ensures that each facet – the fun, the quarrels, the anger, the drama – is honed to make the most of its moments as well as fitting, abrasively or smoothly, into the situation in which it emerges. 

And as Mickey, he creates the happy-go-lucky lad whose carefree approach to life is submerged in envy and bitterness as he becomes unemployed but sees his brother's far easier progress; and anger and jealousy when he suspects that his brother is in fact rubbing salt in the wound by taking away his girlfriend. 

James Weetman is brother Eddie, distinctly posher having grown up in the care of well-to-do parents, but immensely likeable and easy to feel sorry for in his struggle to remain a brother and not lose touch because of the very different circumstances that life has allotted him.


These are two fine performances, each of them coping with the extra responsibilities that come as the drama builds. 

Jean Wilde scores excellently as Mrs Johnston, the mother who cannot afford to keep them both. This is a lovely, amusing, sparky contribution. Linda Neal, as Mrs Lyons, the woman whose life suddenly includes the baby Mickey, has grittier responsibilities. She is depicting someone in the grip of a fragile mental state. There's not a lot to laugh about here and she certainly rules the roost in the dramatic final stages. 

Kate Campbell is a joy as Linda, the happy Scouser who inadvertently ferments the friction, and Steve Parsons, as the confident Narrator, comes completely unruffled to some lines that rhyme with transparent reluctance and some that are presumably in a deliberate mess with their metre. 

Incidentally, Edward James Stokes has taken on rather more than the double challenge I have already mentioned. In addition to taking a lead role and directing, he has also designed the set and helped to paint it, designed the sound, been involved in the costumes, helped to build and paint the set and the scenery, and produced the programme.  

He's a sort of sweat-and-blood brother – and the team with which he is surrounded has ensured that it has all paid off most satisfyingly. To 05-02-11.

John Slim 

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