Evaluation of Live Theatre Performance

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On the 29th of January we went to the Phoenix Theatre in the West End to watch the matinee performance of ‘Blood Brothers’ by Willy Russell. ‘Blood Brothers’ is the story of a two twins born to a destitute mother, Mrs. Johnston, who is deceived into giving one of the twins to a woman who is barren and cannot have children of her own, Mrs. Lyons. The birth mother gets cold feet and goes to get here child back however when she gets there the desperate surrogate makes up a superstition, as she knows that the birth mother is highly superstitious, this scares the birth mother who allows the surrogate to keep the child.

The children grow up in their respective families blissfully oblivious to the existence of the other brother. However the boys, for that is what they are, somehow end up together and become best of friends and even go as far as becoming blood brothers as they were born on exactly the same day, nonetheless they are too innocent too realize that the other is his twin, the young boys grow up together and become young men.

The young men realize that the hierarchy becomes more distinctive as they age and as Edward’s, the twin that was given away, surrogate mother is married to a well off businessman Edwards’s is a middle class family whilst contrarily Mickey is from the working class as his father left his mother years ago and so Mrs. Johnston, Mickey and Edward’s birth mother has been forced to provide money for her children this is the reason she agreed to give Edward away she hoped he would have a better life with Mrs.

Lyons. The brothers are from very different backgrounds and as their differences in the status quo become more pronounced with maturity, a rift forms between them, when Edward goes off to university. Mickey has completely changed when Edward returns, as he is worried about Linda, his childhood sweetheart to whom he is now married, and his unborn baby and how he will provide for them.

Linda goes to Edward because she knows he is a well-off businessman like his father now, she asks him for help economically and so he provides a job for Mickey however Mickey learns of what has transpired and becomes paranoid he feels that Edward will try to steal his life as it was him who gave it to him in the first place and so he is driven to the point where he goes to kill his brother however unbeknownst to him Linda has told Mrs.

Johnston that Mickey is going to kill his twin and so she rushes to Edwards house where she finds Mickey with a gun about to kill Edward, She rushes in and reveals their true relationship. Meanwhile the police is alerted to the threat on Edwards life and as he is rich his life is very important and so they rush to his rescue and just as the truth is divulged Mickey is shot by a sharpshooter employed by the police and as he dies his gun goes off as well, killing Edward in the process.

There are many themes explored in the play, these include family, relationships, social class and status, superstition and fate, power, jealousy and Nature vs. Nature. The play is set in the 60’s through to the early 80’s when social status was of immense importance, also there was a recession occurring at the time and those who were poor were getting poorer.

The play is a musical which is mainly realistic but there are some parts that are non-naturalistic, for example during the beginning the twins are laid out dead on stretchers, also when the children are playing with the air gun and shooting “Indians”. The play is performed on a proscenium arch stage. The most effective set for me was when Mickey, Eddie and Linda go to the fair ground, the lights and sign which descend from the flies create a realistic carnival atmosphere.

Furthermore the flats are changed to depict funfair rides and carnival games. The scene changes throughout the performance were conspicuous and smooth so that people noticed them but it didn’t interfere with the play, and the fact that there were no blackouts and the curtain only came down once for the intermission made the scene changes more impressive as we could clearly see all the flats rising and falling and the characters brought out their own props but this had no effect on the dramatic effect of the play.

When Mrs. J and Mrs. L move to the country the flats of the city are lifted in to the flies and replaced by images of the countryside the also the fronts of the wings are also changed, the city house fronts were replaced by more spacious doors and there is no graffiti, the flats depict a large field. One of many symbolic props used in the play is the money Mrs Lyons offers Mrs Johnston when she sacks her.

It is symbolic because at the time wealth meant power, if you were rich and wealthy you could do things and get away with them, Furthermore money can buy you just about anything but love and this is highlighted in the play, as it is another theme stressed throughout the play, for example Edward and Mickey both love Linda who only loves Mickey also Mrs J and Mrs L both love Eddie however they show it in very different ways.

I’ve learnt from this performance that if you change the set and bring on props quickly and quietly without the use of excess personnel then the audience barely notice and also there will be no need for any blackouts or to draw the curtains. Lights are used throughout the play to emphasise the meaning behind certain scenes. At the start of the play a red light is shone on an opaque screen in front of the stage, this creates the effect that there is a red mist on stage.

This impression is used when all the characters are onstage with the twins lying dead on stretchers, the mist is symbolic as thins can get lost in a mist and the brothers lost their lives. The main and most important sound effect in the play for me was the gunshot, it is also highly symbolic. The first time it is used it is really quiet as the children are playing with a toy gun and the fact that it is quiet highlights this fact.

The second time it is used it is a real gun as Sammy is trying to rob someone and it goes wrong so he has to shoot the person, this time it is loud and scares the unsuspecting audience who are already on the edge of their seats, also from Sammy’s actions we can tell something has gone wrong. The gunshot also acts as a sign to remind us that Mickey’s troubles are not over, we also hear it again as a sign of the end when Mickey and Edward die. For me the character who acted most effectively and believably was Mickey when he was a young child.

He greatly exaggerated his movement and language pronunciation to thoroughly convey his character and to substantiate his young age. He speaks very quickly and loudly just as a child of young Mickey’s age. He also has a strong voice, which he can manipulate to suit his character as he matures, however the projection of his speech is not affected by the change in his voice, so it stills carries to the back of the theatre. Also as he is a child he spends most of his time on the floor and moves up in levels as his character ages, this demonstrates that the actor playing Mickey has an understanding of drama mediums.

I feel that the Mrs Lyons was the least effective character. Although she is of high importance in the play I feel that Willy Russell has needlessly prolonged her role. Mrs Lyons’ most important part in the play was at the start right up till she takes away Edward after that her most essential roles include when Mickey first meets Edward; when she starts getting paranoid and moves to the country and right at the end when the twins get shot all of her other appearances are useless and are just there as fillers. The adults exaggerated all of their movements and their language furthermore they use levels to emphasise their age.

Moreover their costumes are that of children during the 1960’s but they are enlarged to fit the characters and this just makes it seem comical. Mrs Johnston is fairly friendly with Mrs Lyons at the start of the play, but as she realises that she has made a mistake by giving away one of her twins, she turns against Mrs Lyons, at this point Mrs Lyons also turns hostile, however she wants keep her hard acquired child and so clutches at straws and when it doesn’t work she makes up a superstition as she knows that Mrs Johnston is unknowingly superstitious.

As the play progresses fate instigates the women to move to the same place in the countryside and this causes Mrs Lyons to become paranoid and lose her mind, furthermore she too starts to believe in the fake superstition she made up herself and this makes her hate Mrs Johnston whom she believes is trying to kill her son. The key message of the play is that hierarchical systems are wrong it is conveyed by the death of the twins, which implies that their difference in status led to their deaths.

The director wanted to achieve an effect on the audience, which showed the grim reality of life during the 1960-80’s. The audience reacted in a violent way, they virtually jumped out of their seats as the seats in view of the fact that the denouement was completely unexpected. Personally I significantly enjoyed the play, it was an excellent experience, which I am compelled to repeat if possible, and there are so many twist and turns in the plot that the audience are constantly kept on the edge of their seats.

From this outing I have understood why it is important to not to laugh when doing a comedy scene. Also I have learnt that age and gender hold no relevance in most drama, in fact it would be more impressive if you played a character of a different age or gender than you as it would show your dramatic expertise.

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