The bus load of teenage pupils who descended on The Hawth Theatre, Crawley, for Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, were probably reaching for wikipedia on their mobile phones to find out who Marilyn Monroe was.
And throughout Russell’s folk tale of Liverpool twins Mickey and Eddie who are intentionally separated at birth because of their mum’s dire circumstances in then modern Britain, the youngsters were scratching their heads when they learned that wireless had nothing to do with technology, that boys had cap guns and played cowboys and indians, rode imaginary horses and families bought clothing from catalogues and lived on the ‘never never’.
However, by the end of the evening the teenagers were, like the rest of the Hawth capacity audience, on their feet, sending waves of thunderous applause to the stage where they had just witnessed a superb performance of Blood Brothers.
Naturally Blood Brothers, which was born in the early 80s and has gone on to become a staple musical diet of not only the West End but the school classroom, is locked in a time frame that only Dr Who could penetrate.
The world of living on ‘tick’, bailiffs at the door every day, working class women producing enough kids to create a football team, men shirking their responsibility at the first sign of a nappy, factories closing down, the dole queue getting longer, council tenements being subjected to the bulldozer and families moved to supposedly better locations, and, in some instances, crime rearing its ugly head as it convinces some people that is the only route to escape the drudgery, may seem a long time gone and you would have to take to Google to discover what those days were like .
But is that really so? Russell’s Blood Brothers musical may be set in a different England to the one that now adorns Facebook and Instagram, but the basic mechanics still apply. There are women who can’t have children and there are mums who would want to give away a kid if there were just too many mouths to feed.
There are men who turn their backs on their family when the going gets tough and there is an alternative, often younger source of carnal knowledge. There are young men who are brought up in middle class surroundings, swan off to university and end up occupying influential positions . There are men who suffer the depression of losing jobs, and doing jail time, often not of their own making, and are on a path to poverty and perdition and ultimately tragedy.
It doesn’t matter as our bus full of school kids now know that there isn’t a mobile phone in sight or a flat screen tv or an iPad. For 1983 read 2018 and dissect and examine the slices of Blood Brothers that still pertain – the haves and have nots, the privileged and the not so privileged, the good and the bad, the lovers and the fighters, the joy and the sadness.
All the high and low qualities of life and its struggles and its boundaries are there in Blood Brothers and the show is brought to you by as good an ensemble of actors and singers as you will see anywhere.
It would be unfair to be singling out performers for the prominent seats they occupy on the juggernaut that is Blood Brothers so it is best to say that like the rest of the audience you will be on your feet at the end, paying tribute to a powerhouse cast and to a piece of writing that looks as if will stand the test of time.
Blood Brothers by Willy Russell is at The Hawth Theatre, Crawley, until Saturday, October 20.
Words: kevin black Photo: Supplied