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Blood Brothers - Chelmsford Theatre

This was the opening night at Chelmsford for the UK Tour of this production, and it lived up to our expectations.

Blood Brothers tells the Story of Mrs Johnstone, a working class mother, already with a house full of children who discovers she is having twins. Struggling to already care for her children, she worries that two extra babies to feed will end in her children going into care. Her employer Mrs Lyons, a wealthy lady who cannot have children convinces her one of the babies will be better with her and she will raise him as her own. So, she gives Edward, or in effect sells him, to Mrs Lyons and keeps the other baby Mickey for her own. The story tells how the two boys grow up and how their mothers struggle to keep them apart.

Niki Colewell Evans as Mrs Johnstone was outstanding. Quite often this part is a ‘Star Vehicle/Name’ role but it was so nice to see this portrayed by a strong actress with fantastic vocals. Niki’s voice is deep and rounded. She delivers such gravitas and grit in the big numbers and her portrayal of the character was moving with raw emotions and great vulnerability. She ages incredibly well throughout the performance and was a joy to watch.

The Narrator played by Danny Whitehead, was dark and brooding and commanded the stage when he appeared. He was one of the main contributors to many of the scene changes, throwing and casually moving pieces of furniture on and off stage and I loved this.

Sean Jones as Mickey showed a great breadth of talent going from seven year old Mickey full of boundless energy and fun, through teenage Mickey and all his adolescent awkwardness to the deeply troubled adult with great physicality and stage craft. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment he was on stage.

As his twin brother Eddie, Joe Sleight delivered the middle class ‘niceness’ that Eddie requires. He was perfectly posh with all the right mannerism and a soft charm. This was a good contrast to Mickey and the two worked well together.

Mrs Lyons, played by Sarah Jane Buckley, also showed great depth of character and gave a moving and unravelled performance as the deeply paranoid, adopted mother.

The set was very atmospheric with a dramatic rake on the stage which we don’t normally see in this theatre, with rows of houses either side. Initially with a backdrop featuring the Roya Liver Building in Liverpool which was replaced with green fields when the families moved out of the city. The lighting in this production was superb and gave it the extra edge with so many atmospheric moments throughout.

It has been very many years since I last saw a production of Blood Brothers and I had forgotten some of the great humour that it includes. There were also some fantastic cameos from other cast members which added further to the production.

This was a great evenings entertainment and we were delighted to see this production. I understand Chelmsford is a sell out but if you can see it elsewhere on it’s tour I strongly recommend it.

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