Alright muckers! Why, oh why, does Mel C's fringe get me goat? Do any of yous feel the same?? Eh, la? Eh??
Last week I went to see Blood Brothers. There's so much good theatre out there which I've never seen, hence not that long ago I made a pact with myself to go and see lots more!
Unfortunately "BB" was one show I could have quite happily avoided adding to my "must see" list - if I'd known what it was going to be like beforehand, but of course, how could I ... ? Okay it had its merits, but overall I came away feeling disappointed ... all praise to my friend Ying though, for sorting out our tickets and getting us some very good stalls seats into the bargain (cheers darling!) But she pretty much shared the same opinion as me so I'm sure she won't mind me writing this ...
For anyone in the dark, Blood Brothers is a musical set in Liverpool from the 1950s onwards and penned by Willy Russell (of Educating Rita fame). The story begins with working class mother of many, Mrs Johnstone (Mel C) who to make ends meet, takes a job as a cleaner working for an upper class couple, the Lyons. She then discovers she is pregnant yet again, this time with twins! Mrs Lyons is unable to conceive and is desperate for a baby, whilst Mrs J can't afford to provide for any more children ... you can probably guess where this is going, can't you? Yep, Mrs J agrees to give Mrs L one of her babies so she can raise it as her own. Mrs Johnstone gives birth to two boys, Mickey and Edward and hands over Edward (Eddy) to Mrs L ... Mrs Lyons, keen that the deal stays sealed, makes Mrs J swear on the bible that she won't interfere or get involved once the kiddie has been handed over .... Very soon Mrs Johnstone comes to regret her actions and in spite of their different social backgrounds, the two boys end up meeting and become friends, making a pact of loyalty to one another (hence the title) ... and from thereon the drama escalates ...
Actually I've made it sound rather good there haven't I. And it was by no means terrible. The two actors playing Mickey and Edward were pretty good and made the roles believable - Mickey's scallyish, tearaway persona, deriving from his impoverished upbringing, contrasts sharply with the properly brought up and properly educated Eddy, and some humorous dialogue ensues between the pair as a result (when Mickey swears his head off, an awe-struck Eddy tells him that he "says some smashing things"). The two actors also do a good job of playing themselves as children - the sight of two grown men donning short trousers and behaving in kid-like fashion works better than you might think. What I found ultra- cliched though were the stereotypical ideas of class that ran throughout the musical (and click away from this now if you don't want to know what happens at the end!): well-heeled and well-spoken Eddy goes on to university and becomes a councillor and generally does well for himself; meanwhile Mickey turns to crime out of financial desperation, shoots someone in a bungled heist, goes to jail, after which he gets hooked on drugs ... Mmmm, ever so slightly cliched and offensive??
Ere!! I'll give you this big wadge of dosh if you DON'T do another Spice Girls reunion gig, alriiiiight Mel darlin' ?? Heh heh heh ...
As for Mel C, well I confess I was very curious to see how the former Sporty One would shape up on the stage. Her singing voice was pretty good (then, I always thought she had the best voice out of all the Spice Girls), however as an actress she just seemed ... flat. The storyline gave ample opportunity for her to emote (mother having to scrape a living in difficult circumstances; the pain of losing one's child, etc, etc) yet for me, she never seemed to fully inhabit the role of Mrs Johnstone - a review I read on the net described Mel C as "drifting" through the story, and I think this sums it up very well - for such a passionate vocalist there wasn't enough passion in the actual performance and most of the time she just seemed to be going through the motions. I also reckon she was a bit too young for the role - by the close of the story she's presumably meant to be in her 40s or 5os, but doesn't look a day older than she did at the beginning! Surely the make-up people could have done something?
And the songs? Well another thumbs down from me here, I'm afraid. Unoriginal lyrics, some naff rhymes and one song with its incessant references to Marilyn Monroe really did start to grate (probably cos we heard it about 10 times). Another problem was the loudness of the instrumentation and backing, which sometimes drowned out the actors' singing! The biggest drawback of all for me though was the style and sound of the music itself - VERY 1980s with electronic drums, overblown synths and swirly sound effects - it seems like they hadn't bothered to update this since the show began i.e. in the 1980s. Now as you all know, I am a major '80s fan/freak but in the context of the story it just didn't work - and I'm going to pilfer another reviewer's comments here - the 80s instrumentation undermined the tension and trivialised the seriousness of the situation. Right on! Okay, I should cut "Blood Brothers" a bit of slack here - the fact that it started in 1983 probably accounts for the dated lyrics and style. At the time that "BB" was first produced the songs probably sounded fresh and exciting, but by today's standards they now seem hackneyed and stale. All the more reason, surely, for an update?
Oh dear. I've probably rather ruined everyone's expectations of the show now. Well my lovelies, don't mind me, make up your own mind. Still it can't be denied that a lot of West End stuff often tends towards the crowd-pleasing, run-of-the-mill, mainstream variety, so maybe I was wrong to expect otherwise. I saw "Wicked" a year or two back and was rather disappointed by that. I've never seen "Les Miserables", even though people have raved about it and have so far resisted the "allure". "Priscilla" on the other hand surpassed my expectations, and then some. So sometimes you can be proved wrong. And there's a heck of a lot of drama out there which isn't showing in postcodes beginning with "W" or "WC" and which is probably a lot more cutting edge and memorable (but which sadly, you rarely get to hear about).
Anyways, the "no mark" Cheeser will now bow out ... and by the way I'd probably award "Blood Brothers" 3 out of 5. Which probably surprises you a bit, doesn't it? 3 out of 5, just!