REVIEW: BLOOD BROTHERS (The Lighthouse, Poole) ★★★★

Since her musical theatre debut as Mrs Johnstone in 1997, Lyn Paul has regularly reprised the role over the past twenty years. It is worth noting that despite being 67 years of age, she is still light on her feet and as vocally strong as all the the other younger actors onstage. Her slightly advanced age gave her singing a kind of huskiness and realism that only ever improved the performance.

From the opening scene it is apparent that there will be a heart wrenching finale given the harrowing, haunting rendition of Tell Me It’s Not True, sung with heart and despair by Paul.

A bleak tale set in Liverpool in the 1960s shedding light upon the depressed, poverty-stricken streets, the end was inevitably dark. As is tradition of Russell, from the second scene onwards, the musical is dripping with northern humour and black comedy not dissimilar to that of The Full Monty and Educating Rita.

The story surrounds Mrs Johnstone, a woman struggling with her many children and crippling debt that is not aided by her deep superstition, avoiding cracks in the pavement and shoes on the floor.

Dean Chisnall played the role of the Narrator, a mysterious and imposing figure who delivers an omniscient shadow of death whenever he appears on the stage. Chisnall managed to have a strong stage presence whilst remaining unobtrusive to the action on the stage as his character frequently watches the action from the shadows to give the audience a sense of foreboding.

Two more actors reprising their roles from both the West End and national tour are Sean Jones, and Mark Hutchinson, playing Mickey and Eddie. The two of them brilliantly portrayed both charming childhood and the lost innocence of adulthood. Jones proved a versatile actor, switching from the michievous nearly-eight year old Mickey full of laughter and myrth to the chronically depressed and pill-addicted adult Mickey. Hutchinson sometimes spoke in too much of a whisper and seemed to be a slightly weaker actor in comparison to Jones, who very much stole the show.

As the two brothers travel down juxtaposing paths the play highlights the social injustice of the class system that ultimately leads to a perfectly avoidable, devestating ending to a timeless tale of twins. The story is sprinkled with references to the equally tragic yet beautiful Marilyn Monroe.

Thoroughly amusing is how we could describe the act one. With catchy songs and smiling faces it is easy to miss the ominous undertones looming beneath the action. Alison Crawford played Linda in this performance instead of Danielle Corlass and proved herself to be fantastic for the role. From the bouncy seven year old girl to the flirtatious fourteen year old teenager up to the despaerate young wife and mother, it is sometimes easy for an audience to overlook the evolution of Linda that was so well portrayed by Crawford.

After the interval, the stark difference between Eddie and Mickey became apparent and we began to see the rising of one and falling of the other. The end crescendoed and out of spite, jealousy and by horrific accident, we saw the death of both twins, leaving the heartbroken Mrs Johsntone singing ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’. A well-deserved standing ovation given.

Overall, a captivating performance with a score to match the cast. It is worth seeing if you fancy having a laugh and a cry in the same night.

Reviewed by Thomas Barrett

BLOOD BROTHERS plays at The Lighthouse, Poole until 11 February 2017 and then continues its UK Tour