32 years on since its first performance, there are few musicals whose flames still burn as bright nor are there many shows that continue to genuinely move, even on repeated viewing, as Willy Russell’s classic nature versus nurture tale, Blood Brothers.
Now well established on a national tour that takes it all around the UK until September, it arrives in Hamilton as fresh as a daisy and with a cast performing as if it were opening night.
In Blood Brothers the story has always been the thing, and the heartbreaking tale of the Johnnstone twins, separated at birth by circumstance only to be tragically reunited, has lost none of its allure: the packed house were moved, in equal measure, to tears and cheers throughout.
Crucial to the success of any production of this work is its cast and the current line-up has firmly established itself as one of the best. It is hard to express the quality of Sean Jones’ performance as Mickey, a veteran in the role, he manages, not only a spot-on portrayal of the character from child to adulthood, but his desire to give his all to the role means he delivers 100% at every performance. Recent graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Joel Benedict delivers a rock-solid turn as middle class twin Edward as does Marti Pellow as the Narrator, and Maureen Nolan invests her all as the twins’ mother, she is in fine voice throughout and emotionally wrung-out by the end. The supporting cast are universally deserving of praise too, there isn’t a weak link anywhere.
Mention must be made of the venue; this 700 seater Edwardian Baroque, town theatre provides an intimacy that is ideal for this show. The close-quarters drawing the audience in, making them part of the story. In previous venues (indeed Glasgow King’s Theatre in November) there were amplification issues; the ear-splitting volume at times jarring with the mood of the piece but in this venue, it was pitch perfect.
A flawless production: both a work and a cast of infinite quality, its power remains undiminished down the years – still an absolute must-see.
Runs until Sat 21 Feb then touring until September.
“Have you heard the story about the Johnstone twins?” The famous first line from Willy Russell’s enduring classic Blood Brothers still has the power to move audiences nearly a quarter of a century on.
The theatrical juggernaught continues to pack them in up and down the country and this run in Glasgow is certainly no exception: for two weeks only Marti Pellow returns both to his hometown and the role of the narrator and the pull of the show and a local star is evident in the packed auditorium.
The classic tale of nature versus nurture tells the story of Mickey and Edward, twins born to single mum Mrs. Johnstone who already has her hands full: abandoned by her husband, she’s pregnant again and this time it’s twins. The solution to her problems comes in the guise of her employer Mrs. Lyons who offers to take one of the twins and raise him as her own. Mickey is raised in a happy but poverty stricken home with his natural mother and Edward in middle class privilege with the Lyons, but the two meet in childhood and bond instantly with tragic consequences.
Sean Jones is a fantastic Mickey, echoing the original West End performance of the outstanding Con O’Neill and as twin Edward, fresh-faced Joel Benedict is effective. Maureen Nolan is a delight in the pivotal role of Mrs. Johnstone, she shows the necessary personality to carry off the role convincingly and she’s surprisingly strong-voiced. Mention must be made too of Danielle Corlass, who imbues childhood friend Linda with more life than is usually seen in the role.
For all the playfulness of the first act, one never escapes the uneasy feeling of impending doom that pervades and as the Narrator Marti Pellow is a suitably menacing presence throughout, and for a Glaswegian, makes a decent enough stab at a Liverpudlian accent. One thing that should be mentioned though is the ear-splitting amplification with reverb which was utilised in the production – instead of enhancing the dialogue it rendered much incomprehensible.
Blood Brothers has endured for very good reasons, the themes of nature versus nurture, the Class divide and the devastating consequences of long-term unemployment are as relevant today as they always were, those coupled with a great script and score, has meant that this was always going to be a winner. Not an easy show to watch at times, it can leave the audience emotionally wrung-out but it really is a must see to discover how much more a musical can be if it has substance.
The entire auditorium rising as one in a standing ovation is testament to the quality of the show – get along to see it if you can.
Runs until Saturday 15 November 2014 at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Scottish actress Sabrina Carter is currently travelling the globe on the international tour of the smash hit One Man Two Guv’nors. Glasgow Theatre Blog managed to catch up with Sabrina from Sydney to find out about her journey from Scotland to the international stage.
Can we go back to your beginnings – tell us about your background and what first sparked your interest in theatre?
I came to theatre quite late. It all started properly when I was 16 and my friend wanted someone to go with her to an audition for a show called Once on this Island for Durham Youth Music Theatre. I went along reluctantly, and ended up getting the lead part of Timoune. After that I played many roles including Mary Magdelene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ and Florence in Chess. After this I started to listen to more and more shows and found a great love of theatre.
When did you decide to seriously pursue a theatrical career?
I was about 17 and was looking at university courses to study psychology, and literally two days before I was due to hand in my UCAS forms I decided to change it to study acting at a university. I knew I wanted to do a 3 year course with dissertation at the end, so I applied to many any decided upon Northumbria University at Newcastle.
Sabrina with Marti Pellow in Jekyll andHyde
You’ve recently been appearing in One Man Two Guv’nors: what is it like being involved in such a universally lauded production?
It’s fantastic! What an honour to be part of a piece that has such acclaim and lucky to be working for one of the best theatre companies in the world, The National Theatre is something that I’ve dreamed of all my life.
You’ve had a diverse range of roles in your career, which is the role you are most proud of?
That’s a hard question as I try not to take jobs or audition for shows that I’m not going to learn from. I think I’m most proud of The 39 Steps. Most of work up until this point in London had been musicals so to make the leap to plays can be very difficult. I managed it and feel so proud of the people I worked with but more importantly to get to play Pamela, Margaret, and Annabella , three very different roles.
You have played the coveted role of Elphaba in Wicked; tell us about your experience in the show.
Elphaba is undoubtedly one of the hardest female roles to play, not just the level of singing required but the roller coaster of emotions she goes through is massive! I still hold a massive place in my heart for her and of course my ensemble role of Pfanee. I made some amazing friends on that show and worked with some of the best creatives in the world.
Sabrina as Elphaba
My 1st performance of ‘Elphie’ was mid-show on a Saturday matinee. Alexia was literally being sick in the wings, which I was completely unaware of at the time, and I was doing the ‘Oz Dust ballroom’. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the stage management team stood side of stage, all looking at me and talking to each other. At the end of the dance I ran off to change when I was stopped, whilst the stage manager was chatting into her headset . Then it was like GO, GO, GO!!! A team of about four people hurried me downstairs to the wardrobe village ( undressing me as I was running) . I had sound teams changing my microphones, people changing my tights , people painting me green , it was manic! All the while I was trying to make sure my voice was ready for the marathon ahead. Approximately 8 minutes later I was dressed, micked and stood up stage right to enter with Dianne for ‘Emerald City’ … Then came the dreaded but thrilling ‘Defying Gravity’ …One of the most special and defining moments of my life. The highlight of the whole show was sharing it with the stunning Dianne Pilkington.
Jennifer Tierney, Sabrina Carter as Pfanee and Dianne Pilkington as Glinda
What advice would you give to someone sitting back at home in Scotland considering training as an actor?
If you need to ask yourself if it’s the right profession, Then it’s not the right business for you! DO IT! Train well, and immerse yourself into every piece of theatre/performance you can. I trained at the Royal Conservatoire previously known as RSAMD. The skills I learned were invaluable.
Sabrina as Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Oliver!
What’s the best advice that you have received?
“Don’t forget people on the way up, as you’ll see them on the way down”
Tell us what you have been up to recently and what you’ve got planned for 2013 and beyond.
As I write this I’m in Sydney working on the international leg of One Man, Two Guv’nors, this finishes end of June , then who knows were the wind will take me . I do miss singing so maybe a wee return to musicals – basically whoever will have me!
Jeckyll and Hyde
A few quick questions…
What’s your favourite play/musical of all time?
Musical – Evita and Wicked (sorry that’s cringe!)
Play – Blithe Spirit
Who most inspires you?
Hard working non stagey actors
Your dream role?
It depends, in a musical – Eva Peron. I’ve just read Magdelena Alberto will be playing opposite my Mr Jekyll, Marti Pellow. She is fabulous, so I’ll look forward to seeing her in the role.