Oh brother, what a play!

BLOOD BROTHERS: The Rossendale Players cast of Blood Brothers
BLOOD BROTHERS: The Rossendale Players cast of Blood Brothers
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willy Russell’s powerful play “Blood Brothers” bursts into life – and death – on the stage of the New Millennium Theatre in Rossendale Players’ latest production.

The dark drama of twin brothers Mickey and Eddie, separated at birth by their desperate mother, sees their lives take a vastly different course until fate brings them together.

In the Players’ 75th anniversary year, this largely faultless production crackles along at pace mixing humour with pathos before the dramatic climax.

In a small cast, ably directed by Mark Storton, young actors Daniel Starkie, who plays Mickey, and Isobel Balchin, who plays love interest Linda, are nothing short of brilliant.

Set in Liverpool, they pull off the distinctive “scouse” accent with ease, as does Carole Bardsley who plays the twins’ troubled mother Mrs Johnston.

Carole is superb, capturing the hope of youth at the beginning of the play as it relentlessly drips away throughout her life leaving her a broken woman.

Hazel Mrozek, as the mirror image of Mrs Johnston, childless but privileged, is brilliantly frightening as the cold woman who adopts Eddie and schemes to keep him away from his mother and twin brother.

Finally, Matthew Holmes does an equally good job in portraying Eddie, whose privileged upbringing does not stop him from becoming a “blood brother” to his twin.

Whenever I have seen a Rossendale Players production in the past, I have always also been impressed with the stage scenery, which adds reality to the atmosphere.

However, the staging for Blood Brothers is bleak and minimal. At first I was disappointed, but as the play went on I realised this was deliberate, and with clever lighting contributed to the foreboding, ultimately hopeless, backdrop of the play.

Another dark, but no less effective contribution, came in the form of another young actor, Liam Husband, whose narration works well.

Don’t be mistaken for Blood Brothers is unrelentingly dark though – there are plenty of light comic moments, particularly involving the young trio of Daniel, Isobel and Matthew.

All in all, this is a top class production of a much-performed play. A tour-de-force from the Rossendale Players.