In this coursework I will be looking at the play Blood Brothers and exploring the themes that exist within the play, such as, social class, inequality, gun crime and the most crucial theme yet, superstition. Blood Brothers came to screens in 1983, it was written by a man name Willy Russell whom spent the whole of 1982 turning the small scale production of Blood Brothers into a full scale musical. Blood Brothers is a very theatrical production and so, to help me with my coursework, my drama class and I was able to go and see the play live in the Phoenix Theatre on the 30th October 2007.
This was a wonderful experience as I was shown the differences between the perception of rich and poor and the main themes of the play became much clearer. For instance, I discovered that the most vital theme of this play was superstition and the use of props and setting such as the poor houses being situated on the left hand side of the stage and the rich houses amongst the right uprooted the fact that status was also explored widely.
The story of Blood Brothers is about a poor woman who gives birth to twins and to help her financially gives one of them to a wealthy and manipulative woman; Mrs Lyons gives Ms Johnston money as redundancy pay and then manipulates the situation; she threatens her of the twins dying if they ever find out about their relations with one another. Through this, Ms Lyons plays on Mrs Johnston superstitious nature. The use of props and setting bettered my understanding of the play and revealed the messages the writer was trying to convey.
Because the stage was split into two different areas, the rich side and the poor side, this helped me to distinguish the differences in class. For example, Ms Johnston’s house was one out of several flats that had broken windows and chipped paint across front doors; this became symbolic of the fact she was underprivileged. On the other hand, against the right hand side of the stage was Ms Lyons house which was well furbished with neat wooden furniture and thick patterned carpet. This showed she however, was well-off.
Other than the set showed on the stage, the props became useful sources to the goings-on in the play. To clarify, the new shoes were figurative of superstition because twice in the play it had been used to link in with superstition. For instance near the start of the play when Ms Lyons places her new shoes on the table, Ms Johnston showed her paranoia by insisting that the shoes are displaced from the table. Plus later on when the husband of Mrs Lyons (Mr Lyons) places his shoe on the table, Mrs Lyons become panicky herself as she loudly screams “no… to make sure the shoes were withdrawn from the table.
This helped to create tension as we could see Ms Lyons becoming more and more affected by her own actions and the narrator also served a purpose, to not let her forget. The use of costume in the play also showed the differences between the rich and poor. To explain Mrs Lyons was always dressed in beautiful frocks and she changed her elegant attire many times during the play. Ms Johnston on the other hand, was always wearing basic clothing with an apron, plus her outfit didn’t change once throughout the play.
Not only did Mrs Lyons and Ms Johnston’s costume show the divisions between rich and poor but Eddie and Mickey’s costume did too. Mickey was dressed in old scruffy clothing, his brown shorts looked as if they were not their natural colour and had faded; and his socks were never right up since one or both of them had usually fallen bellow his ankle. This showed that Mickey was dressed to play where as Eddie wasn’t, he was always wearing smart suits and his socks were always in its place, his black shiny shoes dictated that he wasn’t meant to play, yet he was supposed to look good and was expected to behave as adults should.
The costume supported the perception that those of a higher class will dress elegantly and appear as beautiful people whereas the poor were made out to be those who looked scrawny and unclean. I thought that the different use of lighting was shown in the right places through the duration of the play. For example, a red light was shunned on the characters whenever there was a scene that showed superstition. To clarify, when Mr Lyons placed his shoes on the table and Mrs Lyons panicked the red light drew attention to the scene.
This was very effective as it created suspense and therefore was good at ‘marking the moment’ There was a darker, more eerie lightning state whenever the narrator entered the stage which built on the frightening affect the narrator had on the audience. My favourite character had to be Mickey as he always made a dramatic appearance on stage. When he was at the tender age of seven he was shown to be a very bubbly an energetic child.
I loved his use of body language; for instance he always used his fingers to show he was eight which was very realistic as most children nowadays would do the same. When his mother, Ms Johnston was talking to him he was always fidgeting by either placing his hands in his t-shirt and consistently twisting it around or rubbing his knees and legs together as if they were itching. I loved that he was always loud and expressive like when he and Mickey made a joke he would burst out laughing as though his mouth was a microphone that couldn’t lower its volume.
Even when he reached adulthood and became depressed, he still showed his true emotions, like when he was screeching at his wife, Linda to ensure she would provide him with his tablets, he showed his anger by stomping his foot around and using his hands as an expresser each time he spoke a word, or when he was shouting at Eddie with a gun, in this his eyes were so squinted his fury was exposed and the way he had his hands constantly moving to interact with the audience, showed he had no resistance to shooting Eddie. He never once kept quiet, No matter the circumstances; Mickey was always the one to be overly dramatic which I much-loved
Although Mickey was always expressive, he changed radically once he had reached adulthood. This was shown because the tone of his voice had lowered and he begun to look restless and drowsy. He showed his depression by always slouching about on a chair or facing his head towards the ground when he was walking. I believed that Mickey was his most expressive during the last scene when he was about to shoot Eddie because he was uncontrollable and he showed so much vehemence in his eyes when they were half closed, plus he was shouting from the top of his lungs with a prop in his hand that symbolised the ending to the play.
When this scene came to existence he was breathing so heavily that I, myself thought he was at breaking point, this for me was he communication I shared with him. I was left so emotional and from there on quite teary eyed as his discontented mood left me feeling as sad as he felt. Overall I thought the performance of most characters were very passive and believable. For instance the persons who acted out the parts of, Mickey and Eddie were so funny and convincing; they kept me gripped to the play and did not fail to excite me. Both of them were incredibly good at acting as they showed when they were happy, sad and angry.
An example of this can be shown when, they were both playing on there ponies, although the ponies weren’t really on stage, they both made it seem as if they were. Mickey’s way of getting of his pony was definitely thought through because that’s how I would get off a real-life pony and Eddie’s mannerable way of getting onto the pony truly showed how there was a division between high and low status. Unlike Mickey, Eddie Chose to ride his pony as if he were a court judge who was video recorded riding a cat and to save his job had to do it in the most respectful way ever.
However I wasn’t too pleased with the performance of Mrs Lyons as I didn’t think she was too good at showing-off her character. To explain she was meant to be this stuck- up and snobbish middle-aged lady but the way she postured herself didn’t make it seem as if she was superior enough. Despite this, I didn’t think she was terrible because there was some scenes like the one were she tried to attack Ms Johnston with a knife, where she Ms Johnston and piercing her lips together like a handicapped dog.
At times during the play the pace was a bit slow. This to me was because of all the continuous songs being played. It came to a point were I was getting bored of the same songs and the frustration did begin to show in my face. It wasn’t all bad though because I thought some of the sound effects like the one played when the narrator appeared on stage, the sound of the music created a gloominess affect, as the music was daunting and the sound was there to show that, something dreadful was about to happen.
This also kept me going as it was a good way of leading up to the happenings in the play. Taken as a whole, I would describe the play as brilliant; it was such an emotional play and therefore brought tears to my eyes. I enjoyed the acting out of the characters because I thought they were all entertaining to watch and the music made me emotional. The fact that I watched this production in the theatre could really help with my future carer as I would love for some day to come where I, myself could get the opportunity of working in theatre and have people watching me.