West End hit visits Queanbeyan

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Sarah Golding and Peter Ricardo, stars of “Blood Brothers, the Musical”.
Sarah Golding and Peter Ricardo, stars of “Blood Brothers, the Musical”.

CANBERRA actors Sarah Golding and Peter Ricardo have a lot to say about the Olivier award-winning show “Blood Brothers,” to be staged by Queanbeyan City Council in July.

When you learn that the couple, engaged in real life, are respectively a medical graduate and a nursing/paramedical student, it’s no wonder.
Briefly, “Blood Brothers, the Musical” is a musical by Willy Russell, author of “Educating Rita” and “Shirley Valentine”.

Based on a “what if?” idea, Russell shows what happens when Mrs Johnstone, the abandoned mother of twins and seven other children, adopts out one of her new sons to a middle-class woman. On the streets, the blood brothers, in ignorance, become best friends. No spoilers, but suffice it to say there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

Described by one critic as “Scouse, the musical”, or “everything the Beatles forgot to mention,” it is set in Liverpool, and to Golding and Ricardo, it speaks volumes about a class system we Australians can’t even begin to imagine.

“I play Mrs. Lyons, the adoptive mother, a rich woman who can’t have a child – she’s desperate,” Golding says, explaining that it’s a covert adoption where Mrs. Lyons holds the birth mother to ransom with the threat of a fictitious curse that says the boys will die if the secret is ever revealed.

Ricardo, who’s studying psychology in his degree, tells me: “I play Eddie, the one who gets adopted but, in spite of his upbringing and schooling, he’s not a typical rich kid… he still longs for the simple life, to go out and play… he feels smothered.”

Yes, this hit play, a West End smash for more than 20 years, raises the old questions of nature versus nurture. Snobby Mrs. Lyons thinks adoption is the best thing for Eddie, Golding says, but as a recent ANU medical graduate coming into contact with hospital social workers, she knows it’s not so simple. The Stolen Generation comes to mind.

Director Stephen Pike enters the fray, praising the play for its “real grit – it’s not wishy-washy”. He was lucky enough to get London (formerly Canberra) director Adam Spreadbury-Maher, home on holidays, in to discuss the play’s background. Spreadbury-Maher has been urging Pike for ages to stage the play, which he says is “on the edge of human experience”.

A quintessentially theatrical piece with a Greek chorus-style narrator, it features 15 songs written by Russell. Pike reckons the audience will come away humming tunes such as “Marilyn Monroe” and “Tell Me It’s Not True”. As Willy Russell says: “It does seem to be the musical that’s loved by people who hate musicals.”

“Blood Brothers, the Musical”, The Q, Queanbeyan, July 6-23. Bookings to www.theq.net.au or 6285 6290.


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