Amidst the dreaming spires of Oxford, it’s sometimes easy to forget the ever-present divide between town and gown. But, 30 years after its creation, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers still resonates thanks to the age-old issue of class.

The story, written by the man behind Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, follows the life of single mother Mrs Johnstone (played by the charismatic Linzi Hateley) who is struggling to feed her seven children, battle the bailiffs and hold down a job in 1980s Liverpool.

Flash-forward a few jaunty musical numbers, and Mrs Johnstone is hit with the news that she is expecting twins and the realisation that she cannot afford to provide for both children.

Her luck suddenly changes however, when she meets the decorous Mrs Lyons (played by Sarah Jane Buck) who employs her as a house-keeper in her large, empty home, she’d aimed to fill with children.

On discovering Mrs Johnstone is expecting twins, Mrs Lyons reveals her dilemma and begs her to give up one of the twins so she can finally become a mother. The pair make a pact and agree that neither child will know the truth.

Amid a backdrop of Thatcherism, Bob Tomson and Bill Kenright’s production is still as entertaining as ever before.

But the stars of the show are the twins Mickey and Eddie, Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson. Jones had the audience in stitches with his child-like mannerisms at the beginning of the play, before bringing to tears to their eyes as a depressed young father on the dole, struggling to survive in an era of austerity.

His transformation from thuggish rogue to worn-down worker is captivating. Meanwhile, Hutchinson, adopted by Mrs Lyons, is equally as entertaining on account of his overzealous articulation. The chemistry between the brothers is mesmerizing, making their complex relationship and the tragic nature of the play even more heart-breaking.


  • Blood Brothers, New Theatre, until Saturday. or 0844 8717633.