Blood Brothers is a popular play by Willy Russell. It was written and first performed in 1981. The play tells of twin brothers, separated at birth, with one kept in a low-class family and the other is adopted into a wealthy family. The characters of Mrs Johnston and Mrs Lyons, the mothers, are total opposites. Mrs Johnston is a struggling, single mother of seven, with another two on the way, whereas Mrs Lyons is a privileged, yet childless, married woman.
The opening scene started with a funeral. I think that was effective because immediately it captures your attention and you become eager to know whats going on. Mickey and Eddie lay side by side both dead. The narrator then tells us the story of what happened. This is cross-cutting as it shows a different time period then returns to the current one. The director was trying to give the audience a glimpse of the future so it can help them make conclusions which could be wrong then they’re given unexpected surprises and this all engages the audience. However in the end there is a definite ending and the audience become aware of that due to the way the play began.
The Narrator played a key role in the performance. Firstly he was like the host. He constantly kept appearing and gave the performance a flow. It seemed as if he had the remote to slow things down when he wanted and also to speed them up. He wore a smart black suit which gave him a high profile. His voice was used quite well because he adjusted it to make it loud and directive as a narrator should have but it also had a bit of power in it. During the performance he popped up here and there just to clarify things for the audience. He also engaged white some of the characters. I think the director wanted interaction between them to show the audience a unique perspective of the actors also to remind them that he is significant as he represents fate and destiny which is why the characters also interacted. Because fate and destiny involved everyone in the story.
In terms of clothing Mrs Johnstone’s apron was very significant because to me it represented a turning point. She had her apron on for the whole of the first half whilst they were poor and lived in a poor place. But as she was offered to move to the country side her apron came of and this showed a change. She didn’t wear an apron anymore which showed that she wasn’t working either.
During the play the actor that played Mickey acted as a child, playing and going to school, and as an adult worked in a factory but for most of the time was unemployed.
Culturally Mickey’s status was low, he came from a working class background from a big family with little money. It is evident Mickey comes from a lower class background because of his dirty face, dirty ragged clothes and his northern accent. His clothes were quite large and seemed as if they weren’t his size. This shows his clothes might have been passed down which thus shows they aren’t able to afford so many clothes.
Socially, amongst his peers Mickey again has a low status. He often talked of how his older brother Sammy would beat him up and boss him around. In the scene where all the children play together and sing a song, no one listens to Mickey, they laugh at him and mock him, with the exception of Linda who obviously likes him as she sticks up for him. It is around her and Eddie that Mickey has an equal status, sometimes a higher. For instance Linda sticks up for Mickey and follows him around, and Eddie is impressed by his `smashing’ swear words and tries to copy them, at one point telling his mother she is a `fuckoff’. He also copies the things Mickey does, such as pulling his shirt down over his knees. As a child Mickey is disobedient, as well as being a typical child of high hyper activeness and imagination. This is shown when he rushes around the stage on his imaginary horse whooping and yelling playing `Cowboys and Indians’, and playing with toy guns, usual of young boys.
His disobedient nature is shown when he runs off to Eddies house having already been told by his mother not to ever go there. The actors voice was generally loud and well projected especially as a child and being lower class his voice was not well controlled and he laughed loudly, he did not speak proper English and swore. He also talked quite quickly sometimes which gave the impression he was an over-excited hyperactive young boy. He had a clear Liverpudlian accent. We can tell the accent is Liverpudlian by the frequent change in pitch, with the end of each sentence high. The vowels are harsh and the actor makes glut oral sounds. The end letter of each word is also clearly pronounced for example `right’ as opposed to a London accent where the `t’ would almost be missed out sounding like `righ’. Often he says `ya’ instead of `you’, and `mam’ instead of `mum’ making the accent stronger.
The actor also created different tones to his voice. When he was sad he spoke quietly and murmured, when he was angry he would shout. His body would tense and his facial expression would change for example his eyebrows would draw together. When he walked out of jail as an adult, he had a blank expression on his face as if in shock. He also used emphasis in his voice, such as when he says `I’m not seven, I’m nearly eight.’ He stresses different parts of the sentence to get his point across – `I’m not seven, I’m nearly eight.’ As a child the actor moved around the stage a lot, running and galloping.
A common mannerism he had was to wipe his nose on the back of his sleeve, not something a well brought-up, high class person would do. His posture also suggests he is lower class, he slouches sometimes with his neck out, and almost bent, floppy knees and his back is not straight and upright when he stands or walks. As an adult he has a lot of problems, which are shown in his aggressive movements -his body moves sharply when he was angry or annoyed.
When Mickey was onstage with Sammy, Sammy towered over him which showed his influence and power over his younger brother. Mickey generally did what Sammy told him to do. With Eddie however, they were both of about equal height, showing that both admired each other and were of equal status though at first Mickey seemed to be higher because Eddie copied his mannerisms. Equal status was also portrayed as when both were on stage both tended to be in the centre. They interacted together a lot, a key point in the play was when they linked hands and swore to be blood brothers. This showed and marked their bond, and how important they were to each other. Mickey bonds also with his mother, she hugs him close to her which shows she loves and cares about him, she wants him near her.
The character that played Eddie again started in the beginning of the play aged seven and at the end of the play was also about twenty-five. Culturally, Eddie had a high status, his family was well off and he lives in a nice area. We know this because his foster mother has a well- spoken voice, with no accent when compared to Eddie’s real mother’s voice. They also live in a separate area to the working class area where Mickey lives as Eddie’s mother often tells him not to play there. We also know they are well off because they can afford to have a cleaner. Edward also wears clean, smart clothes that only the upper class would wear in those times. Socially Eddie does not have a particularly high status, as he does not have any friends except Mickey. At first his status may appear lower than Mickey’s, as Eddie tends to copy Mickey, such as his swear words, and mannerisms. However later they appear to have an equal status, neither takes centre stage over each other and both are of equal height. Both seem to admire each other as both refer to each other as their`blood brother’.
Eddie is easily encouraged by Linda and Mickey to do things he thinks are wrong, such as throwing stones and sneaking out. It is clear Eddie has lead a sheltered and protected life, as he does no know certain swear words Mickey knows and the idea of him disobeying his mother is quite unthinkable to him at first until he is persuaded by Mickey. The actors voice was clear and well projected, and also well spoken; he had a southern accent, which was easy to understand. Every letter was pronounced clearly and properly (queen’s English). He would use words that people would use if they were from a good class such as `smashing’ and `wonderful’.
He also uses emphasis in his voice, when he describes the swear words he says they are `smashing’, emphasizing the word to show his admiration. Eddie would always stand upright, his neck straight and shoulders back, a posture a well brought up boy would hold. He is much more reserved and restrained than Mickey and this is evident in the way he moves, not rushing around madly – but always walking calmly, even as a child. He used many facial expressions to portray his character. One in particular when Mickey whispers to him a rude word he knows, Eddie’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, and his mouth drops down in amazement at the word.
I was impressed with both performances because both adult actors truly managed to portray young children in two totally different ways but still succeeding in making them entirely believable. Eddie’s facial expression was humorous when he learnt the swear words, as he seemed so impressed (just as a child would) at something older persons would find silly, rude or just take for granted. I liked Mickey’s facial expressions because as a child they were always very excited and exaggerated making his performance generally more interesting and funny to watch. I liked Mickey’s movements because the way he galloped around the stage was just as you would imagine a hyperactive child to be, playing the same games and doing the same things all children did when they were young, which was very entertaining. Eddie’s movements contrasted to Mickey’s as they were more restricted, which was not so interesting to watch, but it helped the audience form an idea of his character, so it was helpful in this way.
One of my favourite scenes was when Mickey played with the children with the dustbin lids and pretend guns, as they all seemed to be having so much fun I almost felt I would have liked to join in. Their amusement and happiness seemed real. I also enjoyed the last scene when Mickey is about to shoot Eddie, it was very dramatic and powerful, the scared look on Eddie’s face, and Mickey’s shaking hand and desperate voice. I enjoyed the way both actors used their voices as they were both so contrasting it made the scenes more interesting and lively and sometimes humorous.
The techniques they used were for example freeze frames sometimes when the narrator was talking, and lighting. The whole play stared at the end of the story and therefore the bulk of the play was a flashback. The main characters sometimes had a monologue, for example Mickey, when he was a child talking of how Sammy treats him and how he is the youngest in their family. Music and lights help to convey people’s emotions, for example when Mickey is very angry as an adult, a red light comes on. Sometimes people connote this colour with anger and blood all negative words so that might be what the director intended. The audience then understand the actor more and begin to see things from his perspective.