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As I mentioned before, the red lights at the very start of the play symbolize the blood that the brothers share. From the first scene, the lighting shows the mood of what’s happening onstage; when Mrs Johnstone is singing happily about her past and going dancing, the lighting is bright and warm, but when she gets to the part where her husband left her it is cold and dim. The lights also reflect the different places the story is set, for example in the scenes in Liverpool, they manage to make the stage look smoky and dark but when the scene changes to the countryside, green and blue gels light up the scenes.
Flickering lights also show the cinema, and bright, colourful, flashing ones animate the ‘fairground’ scene. The most effective use of the lights is in the two scenes that deals with the mental breakdown of the two characters; there are flickering lights to show when Mickey goes ‘frantic,’ as well as lights that are used cleverly to look like bars when he is in prison, and then when Mrs Lyons goes crazy, flashing lights are used to symbolize lightning, as well as making the outline of a flickering tree. This is the most dramatic use of lighting in the play and it is very effective.
There are also a number of sound effects used through the play. The funniest are the Swedish women when the boys go and see ‘Nymphomaniac nights and Swedish Au pairs’ at the cinema. Sound effects are also used for the guns at the end of the play and for when the children throw stones at the window in the park. Both of these are very realistic and efficacious. Police car sirens are also used throughout the play, and sound effects are used again in the end scene where the police officer speaks through a megaphone.
The only drawback of the sound effects is that I thought that the ‘reverb’ effect was used a bit too much and became slightly annoying. As Blood Brothers is a musical, there were a number of songs sung throughout the performance. I think song is an effective medium and a good way of putting across emotions that can’t be expressed through dialogue. All the songs had different tones, the one sang by the children when they were playing was jolly and carefree, while the last song ‘Tell me it’s not true’ is extremely melancholy, and the mood of Mrs Johnson’s key song about dancing changed throughout the play.
The majority of the songs were sung by Mrs Johnson and the narrator, though all the cast sung at some point. Myself I liked the ‘Devils got your number’ and ‘My friend’ songs best but they were all effective, though personally I thought the line ‘like Marilyn Monroe’ was incredibly overused to the point where it got somewhat predictable and annoying. One of the main themes running through Blood Brothers is social class, as is shown in the last lines of the play, “And do we blame superstition for what came to pass? Or could it be what we, the English, have come to know as class?
” I think that the difference in social class between the two families was very well portrayed. Firstly in the costumes, the two boys I thought were very well costumed, with Eddie’s slightly boring smart uniform, compared to Mickey too-large pullover and shorts, with his socks falling down. However I thought that with the mothers’ clothes, there should have been more of a difference. While Mrs Lyons was smartly dressed in suitable clothing for a middle class woman at the time, Mrs Johnstone didn’t look quite rough enough for a woman on the brink of destitution.
She looked slightly too ‘polished,’ with perfect hair and make up, and her clothing not dingy enough. The accents were also very good, though again I felt that a lot of Mrs Johnstone’s words were too well enunciated for a woman of her social stature. She also didn’t have a very strong Liverpudlian accent, which I think she should have, compared to how the play is written and to the character for Rita in ‘Educating Rita’ speaks in a version I have scene of that text (by the same playwright,) and when she sang, she lost the accent entirely.
The speech of the characters was also different; the lower class swore a lot more, while the middle class characters used a much wider vocabulary. Throughout the play you could easily tell that the two boys had been brought up in different homes, with Eddie having the advantage in life. Even Mickey realises this, as is seen at the end of the play when he asks his mother “Why couldn’t you have given me away? ” At the end of the play the audience seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed it.
There was a lot of clapping as the actors took their curtain call, and the audience in the stalls gave them a standing ovation. Personally, I enjoyed the show though there were a few weaknesses overall. One thing I particularly didn’t like was the way that the same actors portrayed the characters from childhood to adults. This was a span of about 15 years, so it was obvious that it couldn’t be carried of convincingly. While the character of Linda was quite convincing as a young child, I found both of the boys’ portrayals to be slightly condescending and immature in the way they portrayed seven year olds.
They tended to over act some of their lines, for example the scenes were Mickey was playing on his horse, and the way Eddie stuck up his hand before saying something I thought was annoyingly precocious. I also thought that young Eddie sounded very effeminate, which was a little inane, Another disadvantage to this was that when they sang, especially Mickey, their voices suddenly matured, which sounded rather strange. If I had directed this I would have seriously considered using children for this part, and then the same actors for their teenage and adult years.
Some of the acting was also not as good as the others, in particular the two mothers. This could be because the parts had been swapped around; Louise Russells, who played Mrs Lyons usually plays Donna-Marie (a more minor character) while Sarah Hay (Mrs Johnstone) usually plays Mrs Lyons. Although they generally played their parts to a high standard, some of the scenes between the two weren’t very good; the ‘shoes on the table’ and ‘attack in the kitchen’ scenes were particularly bad.
However I think the worst scene was when Mrs Lyons went mad,, although the special effects were good, the overall impression was very overly dramatic and exaggerated. I definitely preferred the first act to the second, and my favourite scenes were when the three teenagers were hanging out as friends. The play did a good job of evoking emotions in you overall, and the end scene was very sad. I liked the play as a whole, but People who have seen versions performed with a different class have said that it wasn’t as good this time around but I liked the play as a whole, and found it enjoyable and entertaining.