Willy Russell wrote Blood Brothers in 1981, at the time of an economic downfall. He manages to integrate the idea of classical nature of tragedy with the modern class debate. Russell mixes the two, by inventing two characters, twins, who are separated at birth by a mother trying to do best for her children, by giving one to a better-off family. But as always in these plays’ events never go as planned and Fate continuously puts the characters in dramatic situations.
This essay will discuss the way in which Russell combines superstition and class in both the structure of the play and the ways it is brought out in performance. The begins in the early 60’s and revolves around two boys, Mickey Johnstone and Eddie Lyons both from different backgrounds, one from a well off family (The Lyons) and one from quite a poor but happy family (The Johnstones). The two boys become friends at the age of seven; we then watch them grow into adults. But there is a secret that Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons hold; Eddie is the twin of Mickey, who was given away at birth to an infertile Mrs Lyons.
As the two grow up they become very close and are even in love with the same girl (Linda) Mickey gets into a bit of trouble when he’s older and is sent to prison, after getting out he is very depressed and Linda starts having an affair with Eddie, something that she regrets but she just wanted to feel loved. When Mickey finds he sets out on a mission to find his friend, with Mrs Johnstone and Linda hurrying after him, in a last ditch attempt to stop Mickey from Killing his twin, Mrs Johnstone finally tells the brothers the truth, but drastic consequences come to pass.
Aristotle proposes that all tragedies must revolve around a tragic hero. In the case of “Blood Brothers”, Mrs Johnstone takes on the role of the hero. Although Mrs Johnstone holds this title, it could be argued that later on in the production the two brothers, Edward and Mickey, take on this role. In “Blood Brothers” the Narrator plays a pivotal part in revealing the part Mrs Johnstone plays. For instance at the start of the play he talks about how cruel and “stone-hearted” she is and then continues to interact with the audience by saying “judge for yourselves, how she came to play this part”.
The word judge links back to the fact that this is a tragedy, as the audience is being asked to analyse the tragic hero for them selves, just like Aristotle proposed. The Idea that the Narrator already knows what is going to happen suggests that we should blame superstition for what came to pass, as the Narrator is thought to represent Fate and predestination. In most classical tragedies the life of the tragic hero spirals into misery and brings those around her with them. Where as in the case of Blood Brothers, there is a twist to this as the roles are switched as Mickey comes to play this part. His life slowly starts deteriorating, when he commits a crime to try and provide Linda with money.
“All we need is someone to keep the eye for us. Look at y’ Mickey, What have y’ got? Nothin’, like me Mam. Where y’ takin’ y’ tart for New Year?” This is the point where Mickey makes the fatal error. “Where y’ takin’ y’ tart for New Year?”, suggests that he is the tragic hero, doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons. Furthermore Mickey is the one that dies, not Mrs Johnstone, Implying the roles have switched.
Moreover, catharsis is created when you start to feel pity for Mrs Johnstone, the original Hero. We feel sorry for her, as we know her sons are going to die, because this is portrayed in the opening of the production. The audience has also witnessed the different love stories and strains, making them feel more involved. Personally I think the Narrator plays a prime role in the production, in many different ways. Firstly I will discuss his performance on stage. The Narrator is always somewhere on the stage, whether it be lurking in the alleys or visible central stage.
We, as the audience, are not told but we are given the impression that he cannot be seen by the characters on stage. Although, right through the play there are small moments where he hands the characters objects or gets in the way of a character on stage, consequently making eye contact with the characters, giving the perception he has been seen. Yet as soon as the narrator and characters’ loose eye contact, they seem to forget about seeing him and carry on with the activity they were previously doing. This implies that he is just a picture in the characters mind like a devil, something they didn’t want to see so try to forget about seeing him and carry on. Furthermore the audience also get this feeling that he is the devil, as he sings the lyrics, “You know the devil’s got your number, you know he’s gonna find you, you know he’s right behind you, he’s staring through your window, he’s knocking on your door”.
And while he is singing this he is staring through the window of the room that Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons are in and he looks as if he is about to knock of the door. For this reason the audience get the idea he is the devil, from the link between his actions and lyrics. Nonetheless it could be disputed that he is not the devil as in some snippets of the play he sympathizes with certain characters. This is expressed when Linda is running after Mickey and he holds her back, as he represents predestination and knows something dreadful will happen if he lets her go.