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Saturday, May 13, 2017


(Thandolwethu Skwatsha & Anele Ndlovu)

In every respect it is a pass mark, with distinction. (Review by Keith Millar)

There is little doubt that Blood Brothers ranks as one of the most popular musicals of all time. With book, lyrics, and music by Willy Russell - who also gave us Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita - it holds the record of being the third longest-running musical on London’s West End, where it ran for 24 years.

So, what about Kearsney College’s production of this epic musical which has just finished its run at the school? Well, in every respect it is a pass mark, with distinction.

Blood Brothers is not an easy production to stage. It is a complex story which is at once emotional, funny, dark, heartrending and tragic. However, despite their youth the young cast faced all these challenges and succeeded admirably.

The musical tells the story of the Johnson twins who are separated at birth. One lives with his mother in abject poverty, while the other is raised in a family of great privilege. Despite their different socio-economic backgrounds, the boys meet and become best friends, and even fall in love with the same girl – without ever finding out they are twin brothers.

However, while the one prospers in life, the other falls on hard times and this ultimately leads to their tragic deaths.

The show was directed by a young educator from the school, Brett Alborough. Better known in musical circles, this was Alborough's first stage production. And what an excellent job he did. Keeping it relatively simple, he managed to draw the most from the script and music and extract strong confident performances from his cast.

Alborough assembled an excellent eight-piece band (including himself on keyboards) to provide backing for the singers in the production. Always so much better than backtracks.

He also drew on the considerable professional skills of Dark Horse Productions, with sound engineer Ross Van Wyk for sound design and SAS Productions for lighting design, to lay a solid technical foundation upon which his cast could deliver their performances.

Deliver they certainly did. Kearsney’s production of this musical had a large cast of 31, all of whom gave of their best and made a positive contribution to the show.

Of note was Hannah Norcott as Mrs Johnson, who due to financial circumstances gave away one of her twins. She delivered an emotional and mature performance in a difficult role. She also displayed a fine singing voice in delivering a lion’s share of the songs in the show.

Another performance of note was that by Wandile Nyamela as the ever-present, dark and malevolent Narrator. A performance which sent shivers down the spine. 

The brothers were played by Thando Skwatsha as Mickey and Anele Ndlovu as Eddie. The roles require the actors to grow from seven year-olds to adulthood. They were both excellent. Hilariously funny as seven year-olds and masterful as young adults. Performances both can be very proud of.

Cassidy Phillips as the boys’ love interest, Linda, is another one who had to grow from seven to adulthood. She is a captivating young lady who showed a wide range of emotions.

The only slight negative I have is that the Liverpudlian accents used by the actors were all over the place. The story is universal so it may have been better if they had rather used their natural South African accents.

That aside, Kearsney College’s production of Blood Brothers was very good and provided for a memorable night out. Congratulations to their Drama department and I look forward to their next endeavour. – Keith Millar