‘And Only if we Could Stop and be Forever, Just Eighteen’ . Blood Brothers, Orchard West Theatre, Dartford. 03.04.2024

I was so excited to be returning to the Orchard West, the temporary accommodation for Dartford’s local theatre while the Orchard currently undergoes construction following closure last year. But what a temporary arena it is, fitted with bars, toilets and a big lobby that blows you away when you enter. Although not all touring productions are able to suit the new layout, I was so happy to hear that this classic would be making its home there for the week!

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers tells the story of Mickey Johnson and Edward Lyons, twins separated at birth when their mother Mrs Johnson makes a pact with Mrs Lyons – who she worked for. We follow the boys who become friends, grow up in two separate worlds of the upper and lower class of Liverpool, unawares that they were once a pair. The powerful story is so compelling that its hard not to get emotional – especially in Act 2. Having seen it many times prior, I still get drawn in by the story and still shed a tear at the end. You can’t help but become attached to Mickey and Edward as you watch them go from innocent 8 year old boys to grown adults that are very similar but live separate lives that go very different ways.

No stranger to the role of Mickey is Sean Jones, you can tell that he knows the role from the inside out and it truely reflects within his performance. Mickey journey from child to adult is much more troubled that Eddie’s, where he continues to fight throughout which again Sean shows of perfectly and his breakdown in Act 2 was so moving and powerful to watch – which he has to deliver for many shows in the week and looks like he’s doing it for the first time! Joining him is Joe Sleight as Eddie, a very different story living the upper class life, but yet Eddie see’s his friends as one and his compassion and care is demonstrated brilliant by Eddie. Both brothers, have a warm tone to their singing which are shown through ‘My Friend’ That Guy’ which complimented them both. Joe’s final scene, really broke me as tears came from his eyes it all felt very real and I was blown away by the emotion that was brought to the stage.

Another return to the show is Niki Colwell Evans in the role of mother Mrs Johnstone, a role that many women would love to play. Niki’s voice was perfect for the role and her emotions were clearly seen through every lyric, especially in Tell Me its Not True’ which brought tears to many of the audience members. Her love for her children was not to be denied and you could tell she was enjoying bringing the part to life on stage each time. Lingering in the shadows was Scott Anson as Narrator, another reprise you could understand as to why he was asked to return. His presence on stage was strong and when he appeared your eyes would draw to him, wondering what he was about to say or do. He was a sort of long superstition – something the musical focusses a lot on that overshadowed all the characters. Scott had the voice, strengh and presence to give off an amazing performance.

All of the above, were supported greatly by their supporting cast. With the full ensemble taking on multiple roles to accomodate the story and it was like they brought on a whole new actor. Gemma Brodrick was brilliant as Linda, a rose between two thorns but her love for Mickey fully outshone and her compassion to him through his breakdown was very moving to watch.

No matter how many times I see Blood Brothers, it is like i’m watching it for the first time. It always delivers such a powerful show, that everyone can enjoy – you laugh, you gasp, you cry guaranteed! A show that has a compelling story, some iconic songs and an amazing cast! During the interval I was asked by the Orchard West Marketing Staff ‘why should you support your local theatre’ although I said a few words, on reflection what I wish I said was – ‘Where else will you be able to see top West End Shows, for an amazing price right on your doorstep, to give those that can’t always get to London to have a chance to see some amazing stories, and performers brought to life in front of there eyes. And be so lucky to be doing so!’

Blood Brothers plays at the Orchard West until Saturday 6th April, for all ticket information go here. It will then continue on its 2024 tour, for all dates go here.

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