News from The Kings of Wessex Academy

A Review: 'Blood Brothers' by Year 11 Drama Students

8th January, 2018 by Jude Owens

Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 December 2017

Willy Russell’s acclaimed “Blood Brothers” was this year’s powerful choice of production for The Kings of Wessex Academy’s Year 11 Drama students. A gritty story with northern roots that débuted in Liverpool 30 years ago, and is still going strong in theatres across the country.

A tragicomedy of two halves set in the 1960’s, the dual meaning “Blood Brothers” tells the tale of two twin boys separated at birth with starkly disparate upbringings; yet are drawn to each other and “died on the self-same day.” No spoiler alert, then.

There was no hiding from the misfortunes afoot as the foreboding presence of the narrator (Aiden Malik) steered events as if the characters were merely playing out the tragic story like predestined puppets. Dressed in a black coat and hat and tapping walking stick, he was the image of menace – “The Devil’s in the background.” Such was his superstitious, dreadful timing and tone of voice, the audience wondered whether he was the Devil himself. Increasingly on stage; sardonic and sinister, the tragic inevitability of the point culminant loomed as tap, tap, he reminded us with his walking stick.

The portrayal of working class mother and cleaning lady Mrs Johnstone (Niah Vall) in apron and curlers (and too many babies and debts) was heart-warming. With her dreamy demeanour and love of dancing, she epitomised life’s disappointments, swaying to the words sung by her wooing would-be and now gone husband - “He told me I was lovelier than Marilyn Monroe.” In contrast, her employer Mrs Lyons (Imogen Fuller) to whom she gave baby Eddie in a hastily, but highly emotional hand-on-the-bible deal was prim, pretty and posh in twinset and pearls and immaculate hair. For the moment.

Twin no. 1 Mickey (Dougie Clarke) was every inch the seven-year old boy: laddish, mischievous and excitable. His soliloquy “I wish I were our Sammy” was like a desperate version of A. A. Milne’s “Now we are 6” and vented his growing pains and pithy frustrations at being the younger brother – and later as a big boy in a tough world. Utterly convincing.

His unknown to him Twin no. 2 Eddie (George Coath) played the goodie-goodie with a delightfully amusing naivety. Blood brothers by their own hands (before they know the truth), Eddie loved Mickey the rogue for his fruity language - “You say smashing things;” showing up their painfully different circumstances.

A bright spark amidst the rough and tumble, Linda (Charlotte Grant) was sparkly superb. One of the boys playing childish pranks until she develops into a womanly woman; when dressed to the nines in her school uniform, she teeters on naughty high heels. Teenage love was in the air and yes, she married Mickey.

Other performances brought humour and honesty to the proceedings – Police Woman (Laura Warlow) and Milkman/Doctor (Martin Sousa); and also recreated the character of childhood with other kids and not to put it too indelicately, later the dead bodies (Tyler Stanley, Rhiannon Simms and Emily Grantham).

In a time of hard-hitting high unemployment, Mickey is down on his luck, and all his anger and bitterness erupt into jealousy of his friend, the university graduate and business owner Eddie. Gun shots and gasps. But it was Eddie’s mother with blood red lipstick in her descent to madness at failing to keep Mickey and Eddie apart, who fired the fatal shots. As the stage plunged into darkness, the last one remaining in case you cannot guess like a raven of doom was the narrator, “Did you hear the story…”

With thanks to Teacher of English and Drama Miss Nikki Derewicz for her enthusiastic direction; as well as the Tech Team Phil Butterworth and expert students James Boston, Matt Boston, Matt Chillingworth and Isaac Renton for bringing to life this memorable play.

Well done and thank you also to the following Tuesday cast:

Eddie – Emily Grantham
Mickey – Tyler Stanley
Mrs Johnstone – Niah Vall
Mrs Lyons – Phoebe Jameson
Narrator – Aiden Malik
Linda – Amy Graham-Brown
Doctor – Martin Sousa
Police woman – Laura Warlow
Dead bodies – George Coath and Dougie Clarke
Children – Charlotte Grant, Rhiannon Simms and Tyler Stanley