Blood Brothers Evaluation Essay
Blood Brothers Evaluation
In June 2004, myself and the rest of my GSCE Drama group travelled to London to watch a performance of the play ‘Blood Brothers’ by Willy Russell. Having studied the play in great detail four weeks previous to that day, we eagerly awaited seeing the play on stage. A workshop with the narrator beforehand gave us an insight to what it was like to be a member of the cast and helped us further in relating to the characters themselves. I shall now evaluate the performance I saw discussing the medium and elements of drama used in the play, and themes and symbols noted throughout.
The play began with a still image placed behind a gauze curtain. The still image was that of the death scene between the two brothers at the end of the play, and the image was distorted slightly by red and blue ripples of light that were shined on the curtain itself. These ripples of light can be thought of on many levels and can represent many different things. When I thought about it the first thing that came to my mind was the saying ‘looking through the ripples of time’ which, in effect, was what we were doing.
We were looking through the curtain and the ripples, and looking through time – seeing an event that had not yet come to pass. The still image was constructed by each actor in turn walking on stage and taking up their positions, this was effective in building up tension in the audience as we were left wondering what the final picture would look like. Once the actors had taken up their positions, the gauze curtain lifted so we could see the image properly, and then having waited a while the actors left the stage, one by one, in much the same way they entered.
The narrator, however, did not leave the stage and proceeded to deliver his lines, explaining the image we had just seen. The beginning of the play, in contrast to the ending, built up an atmosphere of mystery and tension. The ending was much more of a sudden burst of shock. The begging of this play is not unlike that of the famous play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Both plays begin with the end, as it were, with the opening lines telling us the events in the play and, indeed, the way it ends.
This line describes how Romeo and Juliet’s fate was ‘written in the stars’, as if it were their destiny. This theme is very significant in both plays. The ending of the play was very tense, due to a number of factors, and the climax to the final gunshots was successfully moving. The way that the policemen entered through the audience gave the play a much more real feel to it. The audience went from sitting and observing something, to being involved in it, and suddenly the audience found themselves right in the middle of all the action.
This was a very effective technique to use, as it meant that the audience could relate more to what was happening. Mickey’s body language built tension. They way he shifted his weight, constantly, from one foot to the other and his in-ability to find any words to say, showed his conflicted emotions and also made the audience feel nervous and anxious. After this sudden build up in tension, it seemed from the audience’s point of view that the ending was clear. Both men, now knowing who they truly were would accept things and get on with their lives, living happily ever after.
Even knowing what the end would, in fact, be, the thought still crossed my mind and when the gunshots went off, it was so unexpected that it took some time to realise exactly what had taken place. This scene was extremely well portrayed, as it really made the audience feel what the characters were feeling and the fact that the audience just did not expect what was to come made it even more effective still. In the play the narrator played a very important part. It was he who took on the role of fate and destiny. Throughout the play it seemed, on occasion, that it was he who was controlling the events that were taking place.
For example in the scene where the mothers made their pact the production showed it was the narrator who introduced the idea of the bible. It was he who passed it to Mrs. Lyons, had he not done this then she may never of thought of the idea. This is not unlike that of a Greek chorus. In the olden times a chorus was used to narrate plays and the leader of this would often interact with the characters on stage. The mere presence of the narrator was incredibly foreboding as his body language and facial expressions were very sinister throughout the play.
The fact that the narrator never left the stage also added to the feeling that he was controlling the story and watching over everything that happened. Symbolism played a huge part in the play, so much so that it would take days to interpret it all. Props were used well as symbols throughout the play. A significant prop that was used in the play was the locket Mrs Johnstone gave to Eddie to remember her and Mickey as she thought they were never going to meet again. This prop consequently had the opposite effect. Another prop was the sweets Edward gave to Mickey as a gesture of friendship.
This showed the audience that Edward was a character who used his personal belongings that he thought little of, to make friends. A prop that was used in different ways throughout the play was a gun. This prop went through the stages of firstly being a child’s finger, then to an air gun and finally to a real gun. Another thing in the play that progressed as the play went on was the ages of the characters, the children especially. One thing that the director chose to do was to keep the same actors all the way through. There was not a 7year old playing the part of Mickey at 7.
Nor was there a 14year old playing the part of Mickey as an adolescent. The actors stayed the same meaning they had to adapt to portraying children of different ages. This was done superbly and the actors really did pull off the transitions from child to adult. The different ages were shown mostly by change in costume, however the actors had to adopt a certain balance between maturity and naivety. When they were young, the latter was more prominent but the characters were forced to grow up too soon and maturity took over.
This was clear in the way the actors came across on stage. Another very symbolic part of the play was the pact itself, made by the brothers. Making the pact meant spilling their blood – sealing their fate or merely tempting it – it is hard to tell. Much of the symbolism seen in the production was not always that which was written in the script. For example in the production, as I have already mentioned, the narrator handed the bible to Mrs. Lyons, this was not written anywhere in the script in fact in the script, the narrator enters after the pact has been made.
It was the director’s choice to have this happen, and I believe it was a very good choice as it really brought across the narrator’s role as fate/destiny in the play. The director of the production I saw, made many more slight changes to the script, each one emphasised the role of destiny and fate more, and overall achieving the desired effect of leading the audience to believe we were being told the story, rather than seeing it as it happened. The play was set in eighties Liverpool and addressed many social and cultural aspects of that time.
Class was an obvious issue in the play, separating the two families and the two brothers. This separation was shown by the costumes worn, the way the characters spoke and the set used. Eddie’s smart school uniform was in complete contrast to that of Mickey’s baggy jumpers and scuffed up muddy shoes. The production showed the two houses quite separately with two different backgrounds that would be lowered down whenever a scene was taking place inside a house. The Lyon household consisted of a background of pale flowery wallpaper, a large window, one or two pictures on the walls, and nice furniture.
The Johnstone house, however, portrayed an over-crowded, small and very cluttered kitchen, with very brightly coloured wallpaper that looked many years old, as bits were damp, scribbled on, or had been picked off of the wall. This difference in the way the two houses looked showed how the two families were of very separate classes. The Lyons were able to afford a large house, nice sofa and wallpaper still attached to the wall, however the Johnstones could not afford any of these things. Unemployment was a big problem in these times and this issue arose in the play, at one point we saw Mickey waiting to collect the dole with his brother.
This was shown in the performance by lots of ‘For sale’ signs descending to position themselves outside the houses, including that of the Johnstone’s. We also saw a change in the attitude of the characters there was a feeling of depression coming from the stage as the characters came to terms with their situations. The way unemployment was portrayed in the play was very effective it made the audience feel sorry for the characters, for Mickey’s poor upbringing and also for Eddie, as his sheltered lifestyle left him very naive and vulnerable when eventually he was thrown into the ‘real world’.
In conclusion I feel that the play was incredibly successful in stuffing itself full of as many hidden meanings, symbols, themes and feelings as it possibly could. The way that the play took on another dimension, as it were, involving the audience to such a great level was incredible, heightening emotions and making itself memorable to say the least. Overall a very successful play that used the medium and elements of drama to its advantage in the greatest way possible.