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The text that we have been studying in Drama is Willy Russell’s ‘Blood Brothers’. Willy Russell was born in Whiston, near Liverpool, England, in 1947. I believe that his upbringing that he had, and his social and economic circumstances greatly affected the writing of ‘Blood Brothers’. He was brought up in a poor area, in a poor family that was treated by the government very badly. We hot seated Willy Russell and found out a lot about him. We found out that he was the author of ‘Blood Brothers’ and that his parents and how they behaved greatly influenced the play because of his working class background.
We then went on to find out that he studied Literature at school and achieved an ‘O’ level in the subject, the only grade that he achieved in schooling. He hated ‘Thatcher’s Britain’ because he had strong views on the working classes attempts to gain access to middle-class culture, he believed that every person should be treated the same no matter what their financial state. He believed that Margaret Thatcher helped the rich and made life difficult for the poor.
These views that he had greatly affected his writing because in every play that he wrote, the poor were displayed to be courageous and battling even though they were treated badly, and the rich to have the easy life with not a care in the world and look down on the lower class. The second task that helped us to understand the play more was when the workshop developed to the point where we were able to build the two different households. The first household that we had to build was the Johnston house. We had to think more about what we were going to put into the house because of the poor background that the family had.
They couldn’t be extravagant and had to have a cheap, rough looking sofa, a dirty unfashionable carpet and a big, old TV set. This really helped us to understand the economic issues that the Johnston family had by just letting our minds see what their home was like. You could instantly see that they couldn’t afford much and the social affect of being a single mother with only one salary coming into the family really affected them. The theme that ran their lives was that of great poverty. When we built the Lyon family house, it was a completely different story. Big, long dining table, crystal glasses and even a piano in the corner!
The Lyon family was obviously the rich family of the play and they could afford to splash out on things because they had money. Hot seating Mrs Johnston really helped me to understand what life was really like for her; she struggled as a mother and provider and felt unloved and unappreciated by her rowdy family. We asked her if she was proud of her home, she said yes because everything in it, she had paid for herself and that made her feel very proud, almost as if she had achieved something. When we sculpted the still images inside both the families, this helped us all to understand the relationships between the characters.
In the Johnston image, all the children were close to each other and argued in a playful way showing affection and love towards on another. It was loud with excitement about the Reverend coming round for tea, and the weekly treat of Fish and Chips. Whereas in the Lyon house, the three members of the family were silent while eating their dinner and only spoke when they snapped at each other. The mother sat closer to the child and the father sat at the opposite end of the table, showing a greater more affectionate bond between the mother and son than between father and son.
When thought tracking these still images, we were able to find out what the characters really thought about the situation that they were in. Nearly every member in the Johnston household was happy with their poverty-ridden life because they had love and trust. In the Lyons household there was a great divide between the family and the constant arguments and father working away had pushed a barrier between them all. They felt unable to love on another, they only felt anger. As you can see, the influences that Willy Russell had and his own beliefs really have affected this play.
He has made the Johnston family that of a loving, courageous family that makes each moment of their life count. Contrastively, in the Lyon household, the author has portrayed the family of that of a over paid, worthless family that has more money than sense. After exploring the text in more depth than just reading it, I feel like I now know a lot more about it and really can understand the thought process that Willy Russell went through when he was writing it. I can clearly see the evidence that made him write the play like he has, and can easily pick out the influences he put into the play from his own life.
From using role reversal on the scene were the two boys meet for the first time, I have gained an extra understanding of the relationship of the boys. From changing the mother to Mrs Lyons instead of Mrs Johnston really changed the whole scene greatly. The boy’s relationship when they first meet really expands; they meet and discover that they have the same birthday. For any young boy, meeting a person that has the same birthday as you is amazing, you feel connected to the person because birth is a special thing!
When they become ‘Blood Brothers’ you really feel the connection between the two and how strongly they are now feeling or their ‘brother’. In this scene there is a great show of contrast when Mickey teaches Eddie his new favourite word. It shows the great divide between the two classes due to ‘Thatcher’s Britain’. When Mrs Lyons come in and discovers the two boys, we improvised that she would become really angry with the boys for ever meeting. We decided that this was because she was petrified that Mr Lyons would find out about her never having a child.
Next comes the character of Linda. When she discovers later on in the play that Eddie loves her even though she is married to Mickey, what were her feelings? This I what we set out to find out. By using the explorative strategy of Devil/Angel we were able to do this. We found out that she cared greatly for her husband Mickey, but wanted more than she had achieved in her life. She then thought that he only way she would be able to do this was by dating Eddie. We found that she was really very confused because she didn’t know which man she wanted more.
She had a house and children with Mickey, but wanted to live up to greater things with Eddie. I believe that she had these feelings because she thought that rich Eddie had the easy, carefree life of a rich person in 1980’s Britain and she wouldn’t have to worry anymore about her financial ways. Basically she wanted out of her poverty – ridden life of being Mrs Johnston. At the end of the play, after the meeting between Linda and Mickey after she has been out to lunch with Eddie, we developed the feelings of Mickey as he travelled to the Lyon household.
WE did this by using the explorative strategy of a conscience alley. We discovered that the main thoughts travelling trough Mickey’s mind were those of hatred and a want for revenge towards Eddie because of the fact that he had ‘cheated’ on him with his wife. We then continued to look at the scene when Eddie meets the enraged Mickey at his house. We marked out four important scenes, which we felt were turning points in the scene. These point were: 1. When Mickey first gets to the Lyon household 2. When he pulls out the gun on Eddie and asks him who has the power
3. When he reveals that the gun was actually a fake 4. When he pours his heart out to Eddie about the situation of him and his wife We chose these scene because they pitch the different aspects of the final scene, they have nearly all of the feelings of Mickey in them. Love towards Eddie, hatred, the want for revenge all of them. On further development, and turning the still images into a crime report. I personally discovered that the boys deep down really cared for each other and that neither of them wanted to hurt the other.
When I wrote and performed my soliloquy of Linda, I really had to focus on the Angel/Devil exercise and the feelings that she had towards each character. I decided that she would be more devastated about the loss of her husband than that of her friend. I thought that she would blame Eddie and herself for Mickey’s death because if they had never gone to lunch, Mickey would never have gone over to the Lyon household with the feelings that he did. I now feel that I fully understand the form and structure of ‘Blood Brothers’. It is a episodic comedy/tragedy that really shows you how tough it was to live as a working class in ‘Thatcher’s Britain’.