Blood Brothers, by Willy Russell

Blood Brothers, by Willy Russell

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Blood Brothers is a very popular play written by author and playwright
Willy Russell. It was first performed in a Liverpool school in 1981.
Willy Russell himself was born and brought up in Liverpool by his
working class mother and father. At school he was an academic failure
he left with one O level in English. After six years working as a
hairdresser he went back to college part time to get decent
qualifications. The play is about twin brothers born into a large
family, one child is given up for adoption and the other is kept. The
story shows how their lives have been linked since birth but gradually
become separated because of the background and upbringing. At the end
of the play blood is shed as both brothers are tragically murdered by
Mrs Lyons the foster mother.

I think blood brothers is more than just a documentary about the
everyday lives of the twins. It is also a comedy, a musical, a drama
but most of all it is a real life soap opera dealing with issues such
as poverty, class, welfare, health, unemployment, adolescent
relationships, family and education.

Throughout the play there is a lot of comedy. These comical moments
helps to keep the readers interest. Liverpudlians have always had a
reputation for their humor. Even when they are swearing it does not
seem offensive. Examples of comedy in the play are in act 2 scene 1
when Mrs Johnston refuses to open the door to Mickey because she
thinks he is the rent man. More evidence of comdey is when the Milkman
turns into a Doctor. Later in this act Eddie is taught to swear by
Mickey but uses the swearwords incorrectly when he gets angry and
calls his mother a “fuck off .” Also when the Johnston family move
away to the country and they are not used to the country life. Mrs
Johnston says “whats our Donna Mary put her sodding foot in now ...
Sammy get off that cow”. When Mickey is suspicious of Eddie giving him
sweets. When the Police Woman is talking to Mickey and Eddie gets all
the clever replies wrong.

The play is also a musical A example of this is in the opening scene
when Mrs Johnston is telling us about her life so far. Theres a
backing group who sing tunes from the 60's. It makes the opening scene
funny, interesting and sad at the same time. The idea of going dancing
runs throughout the play, it reminds the reader that the character of
Mrs Johnston used to be a happy person who enjoyed her life.

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Another
way Willy Russell keeps the audience entertained is by using a
narrator who speaks in a ballad form eg. “did you ever hear the
tale....one given away.”

This play also contains a lot of drama, melodrama and tragedy. From
the beginning Mrs Johnston is a working class mother who has been
forced to give up one of the twins by Mrs Lyons for illegal adoption.
The twins meet up regularly without knowing that they are related.
This is ironic because the audience knows that they are twins. The
drama increases as the boys grow up in two different classes. Eddie
has everything (education, job, money and house) while Mickey has very
little. This slowly drives their friendship apart until Mickey tries
to end it by threatening Eddie with a gun. When the twins are young
the two mothers keep on trying to break up their friendship because
Mrs Johnston is superstitious and believes if they find out if they
are brothers they will both die. This is what slowly drives Mrs lyons
insane she gets more and more paranoid through the story because she
does not want Eddie to die. Mrs lyons tries to end their relationship
by moving to the country, but Mrs Johnston and family without
realising they move to the same place.

The play is a social commentary because Willy Russel juxtaposes the
working class with the middle class. He shows how money, influence and
position can have an advantage in life - good education; influential
job; ability to help others in life eg. Eddie helping Mickey get a
house and job; having a comfortable lifestyle. He also shows this can
be abused for example: illegal adoption – Mrs Lyons can intimidate Mrs
Johnston but also persuade her that she can give the child a better
lifestyle. More evidence of this is when the twins are caught by a
Police Woman. The Police Woman says to Mrs Johnston that if one of the
children misbehave she could be sent to court and then says to Mrs
Lyons that it was more of a prank really and to dock his pocket money.

Blood brothers is a ballad, evidence of this is shown through the play
when the narrator tells a story in rhyme usually at the beginning of
the scene eg.

“So did you ever hear the tale of the Johnston twins, as like each
other as two new pins”

It is also a documentary, Willy Russel tells the life stories of the
twins Eddie Lyons and Mickey Johnston from when they are born to the
moment of their deaths. He tells the reason for their separation at
birth, how and when they meet up during the courses of their lives,
how ther lives take different paths and how they are eventually both
murdered by a mentally ill woman. Therefore the twins lives are well
documented.
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