Willy Russell, well known as the writer of Educating Rita, has a knack for telling stories about the working class; people struggling to compete in a world that separates those who have from those who don't.
About 30 years ago he wrote a small scale musical, one that went on to become one of the longest running on the West End. Blood Brothers may have been small in scale, but its themes were as epic as any Greek tragedy.
A young working class woman (Mrs Johnstone) finds herself pregnant and married. Minding a small brood, she discovers that yet again she will bring a newborn into the world. Her husband deserts her, as she is about to give birth to twins.
Having to work as a house cleaner to a married couple, just to make ends meet, she enters into a pact to give up one of her newborn babies to the wife (Mrs Lyons), who will pretend that it was hers.
The twins, boys, grow up living only streets apart, become best friends, or blood brothers, never knowing the truth about their separation.
As one mother schemes to keep them apart, and even moves her family to the country, fate conspires and brings the now teenage boys back into each others' lives, with ultimately tragic consequences.
This production transfers to Melbourne after a highly successful season in Sydney. It's easy to see why audiences have responded so well.
A talented cast of nine, all deliver strong performances, most of whom play multiple roles.
Erin James (Donna Marie), Matt Edwards (Mr Lyons), Christy Sullivan (Linda) have moments to shine, with Jamie Kristian (Sammy) and Bronwyn Mulcahy (Mrs Lyons) oustanding in their featured roles.
Some seasoned principle performers add even more lustre to this production. Michael Cormick (Narrator) brings a sinister tone to the proceedings, constantly reminding the audience that things will not go well.
Bobby Fox (Mickey) and Josh Piterman (Eddie) have the difficult task of spending the entire first act as 7-year olds. Even in Act Two they only gradually pass through their teen years, but both bring a child-like exuberance to their performances.
As Mrs Johnstone, Helen Dallimore has the meatiest of roles and the best ballads. She doesn't waste a moment, bringing strength and passion to the role. Her rendition of Easy Terms and Tell Me It's Not True in the final moments, are heart-wrenching.
Director Andrew Pole makes good use of the limited stage space, allowing the cast to deliver focussed performances, while the unseen band give Russell's score new depth under the music direction of Kellie Dickerson, aided by Nick Walker's sound design.
After 30 years the work may seem a little dated, harping on the themes of superstitions in a pre-internet era.
Blood Brothers, however, is quite moving, and is another production that Melbourne audiences are encouraged to check out.
Enda Markey presents
by Willy Russell
Director Andrew Pole
Venue: Alex Theatre | 135 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda
Dates: 16 July – 2 August 2015
Tickets: $49.50 – $90
Bookings: ticketek.com.au | 132 849