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REVIEW: “Blood Brothers” by Ghostlight Theatre

The opening performance of "Blood Brothers" by Ghostlight Theatre featured a talented local cast that navigated last-minute challenges with commendable resilience. For newcomers to this musical, “Blood Brothers" by Willy Russell delves into the lives of Mickey and Edward - twins separated at birth in 1950s Liverpool - whose contrasting upbringings lead to divergent paths in adulthood. The narrative adeptly explores themes of inequality, superstition, and violence across childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood. While the music, reflecting the 1980s with synthesisers and distinct stylistic choices, was occasionally marred by choppy backing tracks, this did not significantly detract from the overall impact. The musical navigates themes of coming of age, with songs like “Kids’ Game” depicting childhood camaraderie and evolving into more mature compositions like “That Guy,” a delightful duet between the twins that highlights their contrasting personalities. As the brothers mature, Mickey grapples with becoming a husband and father amidst unemployment, mental struggles, and criminal activities, while Edward confronts his feelings for his best friend’s wife, Linda.

The standout performances were delivered by the three young leads: Benjamin Oxley as Mickey, Alexander Sakellarakis as Eddie, and Row Blackshaw as Linda. Oxley portrayed Mickey's progression from childhood leisure to adulthood turmoil with stunning authenticity, capturing the character's increasing stress and emotional intensity with impressive acting skills. His opening monologue, ‘I’m nearly eight’, perfectly captured the essence of a seven-year-old, despite the actor being a young adult. His lower-class accent and beautiful singing voice were especially notable, particularly in the touching rendition of “Long Sunday Afternoon.” Alexander Sakellarakis excelled as Eddie, delivering memorable one-liners in an accurate high-class accent. Sakellarakis demonstrated a natural ability to embody his character throughout the show, staying fully immersed with consistent facial expressions and body language. His steady, bright vocals were showcased in his incredible ballad “I’m Not Saying a Word." Row Blackshaw brought depth to Linda's character with charm, navigating her complex relationships with the twins with emotional subtlety.

Claire Yorston's portrayal of Mrs. Lyons showcased a sweet singing voice and divine costumes. She effectively conveyed Mrs. Lyons' descent into paranoia and madness in this challenging role; although I expected a stronger presence and cruelty from the character in Act 2. Hannah Davies, as Mrs. Johnstone, demonstrated a lovely singing voice, convincing accent, and natural acting abilities, notably highlighted in her poignant rendition of “On Easy Terms.” Kristy Smith-Wood approached the manic role of Sammy with conviction and strength. Elissa Holswich, playing the Narrator, possessed a strong singing voice, although microphone issues caused some lines to be missed. Nevertheless, Holswich's introspective performance of “The Devil’s Got Your Number” masterfully depicted the internal conflict and escalating superstition paranoia of Mrs. Lyons. Additionally, the character could have benefited from greater engagement, given the narrator's constant presence on stage.

The technical aspects were notable, with effective use of fog, blood-red lighting, a set design mirroring the ‘twins' theme, and impactful stage blocking that enhanced intense moments. Theatre 102 provided an intimate setting, featuring a raised stage and cabaret-style seating, complete with a nostalgic ambiance from pre-show and intermission music of the era. Despite some amateur execution, the production's strength lies in its narrative exploration and committed performances, particularly by the two male leads. "Blood Brothers" is scheduled to run until May 4th, 2024.

Note: Contains coarse language and depictions of violence and death.


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