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Blood Brothers review at Wyvern Theatre, Swindon – ‘evocative touring production’

Given that previous performers in the role have included the likes of Barbara Dickson, Petula Clark, Carole King and four of the Nolan Sisters, it is no small tribute for Lyn Paul to be voted as “the definitive Mrs Johnston” in Willy Russell`s enduring musical Blood Brothers.

The former New Seekers singer`s claim doesn`t rely on longevity, either, despite first appearing in the West End`s third longest-running show 20 years ago. For here she is again at the start of a 10-month Bill Kenwright regional tour, bringing compassion, dignity and a commanding echo chamber voice to the mother who has to bear the consequences of giving away one of her babies at birth.

With society changing so rapidly, it is wholly remarkable (indeed slightly depressing) that the dramatic strengths of Blood Brothers remain so telling today. Russell`s narrative of twins brought up on opposite sides of the track explores poverty, class divides, teenage anxieties and middle-aged remorse, against a compelling score of worldly-wise songs.

One or two of the scenes, notably the street gang rough-and-tumbles, have lost some of their original natural feel. However, Sean Jones (Mickey), Mark Hutchinson (Eddie) and Alison Crawford (Linda) are particularly adept at conveying the childlike aspect of their roles, even when they have reached adulthood.

Dean Chisnall makes a suave yet sinister Narrator (a part once played by world light-heavyweight boxing champion John Conteh), and designer Andy Walmsley`s familiar Liverpool skyline provides an evocative setting not seen in early productions.

Willy Russell`s musical continues to wear its heart on its sleeve, even after 34 years

Production Information

Blood Brothers
Wyvern Theatre
February 20, 2017
February 25, 2017, then touring
Press night
February 20, 2017
Willy Russell
Bob Tomson, Bill Kenwright
Musical director
Phil Gostelow
Andy Walmsley
Nick Riching
Dan Samson
Tim Churchill (assistant tour director), David Hoy (wardrobe)
Stage manager
Nick Gingell
Cast includes
Lyn Paul, Dean Chisnall, Sean Jones, Mark Hutchinson, Alison Crawford, Sarah Jane Buckley
Bill Kenwright
Running time
2hrs 50mins