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Martin Paul Roche (2014)

Blood Brothers NK Theatre Arts


Romiley Forum 19/06/14

NK Theatre Arts presented the original setting of the Willy Russell play, Blood Brothers original
setting due it being first performed as a school play in 1982 and the following year being presented as
a professional stage musical. It was to become one of the longest running musical productions in West
End history. Because of that, audiences only ever remember the musical primarily due to its soaring
themes and powerful lyrics/plot. However, the play is the basis for all of this and the original
setting/dialogue bears a close resemblance to its musical offspring; indeed, the play in the right hands
is a theatrical equal and if anything, retains a far greater edge, grittiness, profundity. As an educational
vehicle and social commentary you still struggle to equal it.
In this respect, NK Theatre Arts rose to the challenge of the play and more than honoured the writer,
his work and its message in this powerful and successful production.
The piece allows a certain degree of latitude in staging and use of characters and the director exploited
this flexibility to good effect maximising the opportunities provided by the playing space (both floor
and stage) available. Indeed, this was a key to many of the dramatic successes of this production,
allowing that vital use of distance between performers to create that all-important tension that is a
necessary prerequisite of the story and its characters.
Staging was therefore kept very simple, bare even, to allow the audience to focus on characters,
relationships, dynamics, emotions and for all of this to be laid bare for observation and reflection.
Plotting was kept purposeful, moves within context and always out of necessity. Nothing was
gratuitous or flamboyant, underlining the roots of the piece. Because of this, the expanse of space
available did not drown the drama or the message; there was no apparent desire to fill the space
available and the director allowed the characterisations to do this for her. From a character point of
view, they were all very well thought-through and constructed. They all had depth, individuality and
substance, energy and engagement. Vitally, the performers themselves were totally absorbed in role
and never dropped a beat in concentration or in character. And their skill was such that the playing of
differing ages demonstrated they were mature in their immaturity. There were no caricatures, no
falsity. This was real people, real lives. Frank Hauser wrote in Notes on Directing The audience will
generally believe whatever they are told to believe by the script until they are given a reason not to
believe it. This precept was very well illustrated by this team.
And those essential themes of the writer and his work were therefore exceptionally clear in both the
direction and the playing: family, politics, culture, values, class, responsibility, loyalty, love, loss. The
joy and innocence of youth and how nurture so often confounds nature. All heavy stuff, but
unashamedly and evocatively drawn from the text by the director and actors. And that glorious scouse
humour, those light touches were allowed to naturally occur and balance the shadows without any
labouring and consequently provided the relief this piece so desperately needs.
Powerful theatre, powerful performances and consequently, a very enjoyable production. It made me
want to return to see what else this talented company might be capable of. Not much more you can
ask for really.
Martin Paul Roche
Critic, Adjudicator, Writer
www.martinpaulroche.com