Abbey Gate College’s Revitalised Production of Blood Brothers Reviewed thumbnail image Abbey Gate College’s Revitalised Production of Blood Brothers Reviewed Published on 20th February 2024

Early in the Spring Term, our whole College production of Blood Brothers was staged. Two casts (Red and Blue) gave real depth to the play, each with different nuances in their performances, enriching the audiences’ experience.

Sally Toosey has written the following review of this outstanding production.

Blood Brothers was written in 1981 by Willy Russell specifically for the Merseyside Young People’s Theatre Company. Two years later, Willy Russell adapted the play to a full-length musical version which opened in the West End and has been touring continuously since to great acclaim and international success.

Forty three years later, a group of young people from Abbey Gate College, directed by Kayleigh Anger, took it back to its roots and breathed new life into the original version of Blood Brothers.

The Red Cast performed on Wednesday 30th January and on Friday 1st February for the afternoon outreach performance. Dylan Wilson as Mickey and Marcus Ettinger as Eddie brought energy, pace and freshness to their roles, making us laugh whilst willing us to think. Katie Spencer, as Linda, created a fully drawn character whose earlier cheeky smiles gave way to panic and worry later on. Mrs Lyons was ably played by Christina Mills who portrayed her as a delicate woman on the surface but with a steely resolve underneath to keep hold of ‘her Edward’ at all costs. Olivia Brenninkmeyer brought both warmth and a sense of grim reality to the character of Mrs Johnstone. In her line ‘I love the very bones of them’, she belied the motherly love which was behind all her actions, including the terrible decision to give away one of her children.

The Blue Cast performed on Thursday 1st January and Friday 2nd January. James Bartholomew as Mickey and Thomas Else as Eddie performed their roles with sensitivity and pathos. We completely believed in their strong bond when youngsters, which made Mickey’s hatred and jealousy of Eddie in later life all the more heartbreaking, particularly in the final scene when the tension built to a fever pitch. Linda was played with panache by Evelyn Baty, her sense of fun and playfulness later turning to desperation as she screamed at the Housing Officer to listen. Mrs Johnstone, as portrayed by Erin Matthews, could have stepped right out of Hope Street, Liverpool, in the 1960’s. Her song captured our hearts from the beginning as she took us through her hard luck story and her later scenes displayed a real understanding and maturity. Mrs Lyons was played with sensitivity by Isabelle Jones, her love for Edward apparent in her voice but her increasing paranoia evidenced by her desperate behaviour.

Throughout both plays, Hayden Collins portrayed the Narrator as a threatening and ominous presence. He and his shadow narrators, Amy Reynolds and Anna Dodman (Red), Frankie Ferguson and Natalie Littlewood (Blue), appeared in the guise of a Greek Chorus, commentating, foreshadowing and, ultimately, judging the events on stage, especially in the quick, slick ‘montage’ scene when Mickey, Eddie and Linda grow up in a series of freeze-frame photos, their joy and hilarity juxtaposed against the Narrator’s ominous lines. 

Supporting roles such as the Policewoman, Doctor, Milkman and Kids were played by the talented chorus who contended with multi-roles, quick changes and ensemble movements with the ease of professionals.

Bradley Hope on lights and Max Richards on sound did a fantastic job. The able backstage crew, Darcie Hayes, Libby Frith, Mia Walker, Maddy Kitchen and Eleri Morris, worked tirelessly to give crucial support to this production.

A special mention to Simon Horsefield who constructed the excellent set (the red front door of the Johnstone’s house rooted us firmly in the terraced streets of 1960’s Liverpool) and to James Andrews who co-ordinated musical and technical support, amongst many other things!

Finally, a huge well done to Miss Anger for this lively and inspiring production.


We look forward with anticipation to the next production from our wonderful students, supported by the incredible Performing Arts departments of Abbey Gate College.