I recently saw The Blood Brothers at the Leeds Grand Theatre. This review will draw out the messages which I think the producers and Willy Russell, the author, are trying to get across to its audience and fans. A number of parallel issues, I've observed ,could be related to which society in general are experiencing such as:
- Economic climate
- Social issues and class system
- Mental health and well being
- Dreams and aspirations
Mrs Johnstone (Maureen Nolan) experienced dire financial difficulties. Her husband left her and she had to rely on benefits to support her ever growing family. She is also in debt from owing money to catalogue companies and the bailiffs regularly visited her house. The circumstances ultimately led the decision to unwillingly give away one of her babies to Mrs Lyons who she had worked for. One could argue that it might have looked to appear that Mrs Johnstone had sold the baby. However it was recalled that she had refused the severance payment from her cleaning job.
It is a similar situation to many families today. Many are experiencing financial difficulties with minimum pay increases in their salaries and the hiked prices in food and energy bills. And also with the welfare reforms being applied since April 2013 many more will feel the negative effects. There are many sad stories to be told out there.
Social issues and class systems
Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons were such contrasts in their social standing. Mrs Johnstone, a single mother, and Mrs Lyons, married to a successful business man and lived in a nice house in an affluent area. It was demonstrated in the musical how each of the mothers asked Micky and Edward not to visit their homes. As well as this it might suggest they were conscience about their position in society as well as their secret.
Today, there is a rich and poor divide in society and it seems to be growing wider instead of narrowing. This ultimately leads to attitudes towards the poorer neighbourhoods which is experiencing social deprivation and health inequalities. These issues have an impact on the families and communities. The Local Government is tackling some of the issues by commissioning local agencies to work with residents and communities who are in need of the support.
Mental health and well being
I can draw a number of characters who had experienced mental health problems during the musical. I chose to discuss Mrs Lyons. It's down to the fact she was unable to have a child of her own. Since she was given Edward, her mood changed from stable to an insecure one. This could be down to the secret that she never actually gave birth and only had received the baby before Mr Lyons returned home from a business trip. This has an impact on the bond between her and Edward.
I don't think Mrs Lyons had many friends and usually was alone in the house and didn't talk about other friends. Perhaps the isolation and loneliness have had an effect on her mind. And speaking from personal experience I know how powerful that can be and this leads to anxiety and irrational feelings. This was demonstrated when she threatened Mrs Johnstone in Act II and this underlies how insecure she really is with having one of the twins and fully knows she never had that maternal bond with Edward in contrast with Mrs Johnstone especially with the locket.
Today there are a lot of complex situations within families, communities and societies which affect many people. These are triggered from various social and economic issues and these made more difficult and complex which conformations and pressure the society puts on one another. Each situation is unique but not necessarily understood even if there is more awareness today. What Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons did was probably the unheard thing at the time but in parallel it's common but usually unreported.
Dreams and aspirations.
Mrs Johnstone had a dream to live in a lovely house, enough to eat and have a job that pays her bills. Linda wanted a nice family, live with a nice house and Mickey to have a stable job. She was able to achieve this with the help from Councillor Lyons but it turned out not to be a popular move for obvious reasons. Both women faced challenges from a number of existing issues with the family and society such as Micky's mental ill health and the challenges it had brought on the family.
It isn't any different today. Many are aiming and being aspired to being what they want to be despite obstacles they face. I can personally relate to this and I continue to pursue my goals despite the many set backs I have to face.
The Narrator (Warrick Evans) gave an excellent analysis of the story and doesn't judge what is happening or what has happened. He invited the audience to make up their minds about this story. I appreciated Blood Brothers even more on my 5th visit to the musical.