Blood Brothers at the Wales Millennium Centre: A Review

A story of a brotherly bond to rival all others, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers has arrived at the Wales Millennium Centre and we were lucky enough to be invited to their opening night, and just like the rest of the audience, I was blown away.

This story starts an ends in blood. When struggling mother, Mrs Johnstone portrayed by Former X Factor finalist Niki Evans, finds out she is pregnant with twins she fears she won’t be able to cope. But when her wealthy childless employer, Mrs Lyons portrayed by Paula Tappenden, offers to take one of the babies and raise him as her own, the wheels of fate are set into motion. The twins, Eddy Lyons and Micky Johnstone, are separated, brought up in entirely different worlds but somehow still find their way back to each other. But the superstition hangs over the mother’s heads as they try everything to keep them apart.

If either twin learns that he once was a pair, they shall both immediately die.

Photo Credits: Jack Merriman

The talent of this cast was incredible, but a special recognition has to go to the blood brothers themselves. Eddy Lyons, portrayed by Jay Worley, and Micky Johnstone, portrayed by Josh Capper were both phenomenal. When adults play their younger selves, especially as young as 7 (nearly 8), it can often comes across as too exaggerated or awkward, but I’ve never seen it done so perfectly. Everything from their mannerism, posture, scattered speech, you almost forgot they were adults. And their ability to change, not only their physical portrayals, but the subtle changes in their voices as they grew older was incredible. It’s a big job to take on the role of one of the most iconic brothers on stage, but both Sean Jones and Jay Worley captured the role and brought it to life on stage.

Niki Evans, who plays Mrs Johnstone, captured the audiences hearts. A character who goes through so much but still remains strong and the love she has for her children never fades. Niki Evans has a voice that left chills running up my arms, especially in the iconic song, “Tell Me It’s Not True”, that had the audience in tears. A true talent.

Photo Credits: Jack Merriman

The Narrator, portrayed by Richard Munday, remains on stage for most of the production as an impending force. A reminder that the mothers can never escape from what they’ve done. The fact that he is nameless gives him a sense of power throughout but it also means he could lend himself to many names. Narrator, a consciousness, a watching angel, superstition or perhaps the Devil himself. But the relationship he has with the different characters is what I found so interesting to watch. With the mothers, he stands tall, often standing face to face, watching them sternly. It’s clear he has power over them, judging them for their actions. This makes any physical contact with any other characters on stage all the more powerful. But with the brothers, he is often more relaxed, often keeping his distance and even smiling and talking to them directly. Perhaps in this instance he can be seen as, not a devil or condemning force, but as a guardian angel. As the story moves along, you can see the growing affection he feels for the brothers and the sadness he feels at their ultimate demise. Richard Munday is able to capture an audience with little words, owning his presence on stage. Brilliant!

This show has a talented-filled cast, with Carly Burns as Linda, Timothy Lucus as Sammy, Tim Churchill as Mr Lyons, and other cast members Melissa Potts, Jacob Yolland, Nick Wilkes, Grace Galloway and Andy Owens.

Photo Credits: Jack Merriman

The foreshadowing in this show is haunting. Especially if you’re familiar with the story. They catch you off guard. Even when the scene is comical, leading the audience to grow more attached to the brothers, you are always reminded of what is to come. It’s a perfect device for keeping audiences on their toes.

This show was a wonder to look at. The clear separation of the rows of houses on opposite sides of the stage really leans into one of the key themes of the extreme class divide. And the uncommonly-seen tilted stage floor was also very interesting. And along with the astounding score, with chilling songs such as “Tell Me It’s Not True”, “My Child”, “Secrets” and “Shoes Upon The Table”, this show is a musical like no other.

The talented mind of Willy Russell has been brought to life on stage at the Wales Millennium Centre and it’s not to be missed. You’ll laugh until you cry. Before the last song had even finished it’s last note, the audience was on their feet with rhapsodic applause.

Blood Brothers is at the Wales Millennium Centre until the 3rd December and is selling out fast so go get your tickets now!

All photo credits to Jack Merriman

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