How does Russell display to his audience the ways that class affects his characters? Willy Russell’s musical, Blood Brothers is an entertaining story, written with didactic intent. At first look, it is about two twins who are separated at birth, and then become ‘blood brothers’ and best friends, until both of their lives end in tragedy. At the end of the play, the narrator leaves us with a question hanging as the explanation of the tragedy that occurs- “And do we blame superstition for what came to pass? Or could it be what we, the English, have came to know as class?”.
Russell’s’ intent is to show his audience how class effects peoples everyday lives, and causes problems in society. He does this by showing us an extreme situation using identical twins; just to show us how two people born exactly the same in every way are affected and changed by the social class system. The play is about two families who Russell uses to represent the two different sides of the class system. He shows us how they face different problems in everyday life and how what class you are in, affects the life you live. Russell also sends the message through this play that money cannot buy everything and cannot always bring love; as Mrs Lyons finds out with her ‘son’ Eddie. The play also makes the audience realise how other classes are often ignorant of other classes’ issues, and are naï¿½ve of their problems.
Russell makes it as clear that the families are at two opposite ends of the class system. This is show through scenery in the houses, clothing the characters wear, manners the characters use or in some case the lack of them and the way in which they speak and the language they use. He uses two very stereotypical families in the different social classes. Mrs Johnstone is a poor single mother with eight children, and who everyday struggles with the simplest things in life such as money, clothes, food and a decent job. We immediately see Mrs J as at the lower end of the social class system “you owe me… you pay today… I’ll be forced to cut off your deliveries.”
She has had a hard life and is compared to that of Marilyn Monroe. Russell uses Monroe as an icon in the play and compares Mrs Johnstone to her as both of their lives were very tragic. At the beginning, when she tells us the story of how her and her husband met, she tells us that he told her she was “sexier than Marilyn Monroe”- Page 5. Right from the beginning, Russell wants us to feel sympathy for Mrs Johnstone. She has been left on her own with all these problems and a bad quality of life. Through the first song “Marilyn Monroe” he tells us the hard life she has had.
Russell also makes the Lyons’ as a typical high class family. We see instantly that Mrs Lyons is in the upper class, as she has a cleaner to look after her huge house- “it’s a pity it’s so big”-Page 7. Mrs Johnstone has to work as Mrs Lyons’ cleaner and then we see the two classes’ right next to each other in obvious contrast. This makes us then feels sympathy for Mrs J as we see Mrs L who had everything, and she who has nothing.
Another reason the audience fell sympathy for Mrs J is because they know so much about her past and her family, and therefore there are more reasons to sympathise with her. As we know less about Mrs L, we don’t have as many things to sympathise and because Russell makes it obvious that she is wealthier, and has everything she wants, apart from children – Page 8. As the audience, we do then feel sorry for Mrs L, as she cannot have children and she desperately wants them.
“Blood Brothers is a play that could be played like a tennis match with every scene showing first the working-class situation and then a parallel scene showing the middle-class side of it. The only time I allowed myself to do that was in the scene with the policeman. I thought for that tiny scene, if I did it only once, it would be very effective.”- Willy Russell. The policeman scene (Page 37 & 38) shows just once the complete contrast between the two classes. As Russell says, doing that just the once gives maximum effect, as oppose to repeating it throughout the play. This scene shows us how being a different social status affects how you treated in society.
The policemen judges Mickey due to his class, and assumes that Eddie’s action are his doing, and that he is a criminal. “He was about to commit a serious crime……you don’t wanna end up in court again, do’y?”. To Mrs J the policeman makes the situation very serious and threatens Mrs J about keeping control of her children. The fact that the policeman makes the assumption about Mickey is ironic, as it is actually Eddie who has the stone in his hand and is poised ready to launch it through a window.
The way the policeman treats Mr Lyons is very different to the way he does Mrs Johnstone. It is immediately obvious from the stage directions and dialogue, used that he has a lot more respect for Mr Lyons. ‘The policeman has removed his helmet’- . He speaks more politely describing the incident and acts as though it were nothing more than a prank- “As I say, it was more as a prank……I’d just dock his pocket money if I was you. (Laughs.”).