To say that Blood Brothers the musical exploded on the Derry stage last night would be such an understatement. But I have never seen a Derry audience explode to their feet so quickly as they did last night as that last song was sung: as the last curtain went down. This really was an explosion of an applause. One I've never seen before in the city.
This story is both elmentary and creative. It tells the story of Mrs Johnstone who has five children, husbandless and expecting twins. She works in the home of the fancy Mrs Lyons. Mrs Lyons is unable to have children of her own and so offers to illegally adopt (buy) one of the unborn twins. The mothers both do their best to keep the twins apart, but life doesn't quite abide by their wishes. Despite their very different upbringings, the boys become childhood friends and eventually 'blood brothers'.
This was a first for me. I knew the basic plot, but hadn't read the book or watched the movie. I was a 'Blood Brothers' virgin and I eagerly awaited this show for some time. Boy, but I wasn't disappointed.
I really didn't expect the show to be so deep. This is social politics at its best. It's examining nurture versus nature. It showcases how a child's surroundings and familial circumstances can pave the way for greatness or indeed sheer oblivion. There is much bleakness involved in both situations but reality really is at the core of this production.
The question of council estate living versus the big house living is one I feel very strongly about. Having raised a family on a housing estate and written widely about my experiences, I immediately fell in love with Mrs Johnstone and her very protective nature towards her wayward children. She had nothing but love for her children and never stopped loving Eddie. Mrs Lyons on the other hand was more focused on where Eddie played, who he played with and what school he went to. The cracks were there to be picked at. They always are in life. This show expressed so much social political realities. And they hit home last night. Social Class is still very much rife in the modern world. The saddest line last night for me was Mickey saying, "I could have been him." Tears still well up in me this morning at the thought.
Friendship was everything for these boys as children, and as they grew up. They respected each other and 'loved' each other. Adulthood changed all that. It brought about the stigmas that permeate our world. Social class at the fore!
The narrator, Dean Chisnall, was also a very powerful figure on the Derry stage last night. In many ways the conscience of the mothers, he remained consistent throughout. A force to be reckoned with - as is our conscience at all times.
I wasn't familiar with the motif of Marilyn Monroe used in this show. But surely she's there to show the passage of time. Monroe was an icon, a child fostered out, had a depressive mother, became addicted to drugs. She was a parallel for the entire story of Blood Brothers. Mrs Johnstone was initially flattered to be compared to Monore, and by the end Mrs Johnstone pleaded that Mickey would not be like Marilyn Monroe. Two tragic tales, one ending. A real echo of Shakespearian technique at work here.
The sheer volume of tears I witnessed last night shows what an emotional roller coaster ride this show really is. There was so much laughter throughout, but one always knew it couldn't end well.
I spoke with Lyn Paul (Mrs Johnstone) a couple of weeks ago. She told me that this show 'changed her life'. I can now see why. I can also see why she admits to crying at the end of each one as she sings, 'Tell me it's not so'. Any mother would do likewise. Lyn was simply outstanding.
So just what is this show teaching us alongside the social awareness of class difference? For me there are a number of lessons to be learned: Mental Health is paramount: The truth always comes out in the end: We can never escape our past, and the utter importance of friendship. I'm glad I had a lovely friend alongside me watching the show last night.
Blood Brothers runs at Millennium Forum, Derry until Saturday 8th October. This is one show you really don't want to miss. A real must see.
Call the Box Office now to book: +44 (0) 2871264455 or book online at Millennium Forum.