Review of the Blood Brothers at Pieter Toerien Theatre at Monte Casino

Excellent Dave Kramer adaptation of a nature versus nurture plot – Rating: 5 / 5

Set in the Coloured inner-city residential areas of Cape Town at the height of Apartheid during the 1960’s, it deals with the separation of fraternal brothers at birth when their mother, Mrs Johnstone, is unable to support yet more children.

Edward is given to a Mrs Lyons for whom Mrs Johnstone [sic] works. Their upbringing could not be more different thus setting in stark contrast their divergent upbringings. Edward – never Eddie to the Lyons family – is the studious type & is always reading whereas his sibling Mickey is quickly conversant with swearing & the rougher & seamier side of life in District 6. Mickey lives in the more salubrious Walmer Estate where his father holds a senior position in a Company.

At a chance encounter when both of nearly eight years old they realise that they were both born on the same day – hence their pact to become Blood Brothers.

Ultimately Edward – Eddie to Mickey – leaves for university on the Reef & Mickey finds a low-paying job in a factory. With Linda, his girlfriend, pregnant & him losing his job through retrenchment, Mickey starts “earning” money through crime.

Mickey is caught & incarcerated for 7 years. During this time he suffers from depression & starts taking medication to which he becomes addicted.

On qualifying, Edward moves back to Cape Town & becomes a Councillor. He assists Linda & Mickey to obtain council accommodation but Mickey continues to abuse drugs.

Edward, who has always had a soft spot for Linda, starts romancing her. Mickey finds out. In the ensuing melee, both are killed.

As the Narrator states tersely but poignantly, “Born on the same day & died on the same day.”

The nurture versus nature theme is subtly handled as being what happens to two siblings when raised in different environments but as a sub plot one can discern the hopelessness of families trapped in poverty commencing with Mrs Johnstone. At the opening she sings wistfully about being a Marilyn Monroe, instead she sighs, she is trapped by all these children & all the household chores.  Eventually she forfeits her dreams & no longer dreams of being a Marilyn Monroe as the drudgery of life overwhelms her as she is, as she admits, old before her time.

This despair is reincarnated in Linda with a husband Mickey without a job & ultimately incarcerated. That is why she is attracted to Edward who is so outwardly successful & can provide her with what she requires from life.

When Mickey discovers this affair, he is enraged. Mickey is taking away the only worthwhile thing in his life. In an attempt to defuse the situation, Mrs Johnstone confesses to the fact that they are fraternal twins. Mickey asks her poignantly “Why wasn’t it me?”

Exactly! In this musical exploring the nature versus nurture debate, Mickey comes down firmly on the nurture side.

This play could be set anywhere but in a break from tradition, Willy Russell has consented to a South African adaptation. The language is authentic Cape Coloured with the typical witticisms & colourful language. It is not only the language that reeks of authenticity but the characters & the set.

Instead of the boring overused South African situation of rich-White versus poor-Black, the two families are both Coloured. This prevents the usual political overtones of political oppression from intermingling with the predominant theme.

Both Bianca Le Grange as Mrs Johnstone & Dean Balie put in sterling performances.

An excellent show & one definitely worthwhile seeing.

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