It was with much anticipation we set out to Chesterfield for this production of Willy Russell’s fantastic musical ‘Blood Brothers’ – probably about the 10th time I have seen the musical – this time with one of my 80’s heart throbs – Marti Pellow in the lead role.
From the outside of the quaint theatre all looked well set for a great evening – there were queues of people waiting to go in, with a good mix of ages and equal amounts of male and female theatre goers showing the wide attraction of the show.
Built in 1923 and originally used as a cinema the ‘Winding Wheel’ has three rooms – the Auditorium, Ballroom and Function Room – it has the feel of a community centre – and while I am sure the staff are all employed – there we a feeling of pride and commitment that usually comes from willing volunteers. It’s a ‘small venue’ and attracting a show of this stature was a great achievement.
The size gave an almost ‘am dram’ feel to the event, with individual chairs laid out on what could have been an indoor games court floor … And whilst not the most comfortable few hours I have spent, this paled when the show started.
Practically sitting next to the ‘sound man’ it was clear to see the attention given to ensuring all of the actors could be heard …. Despite what appeared to be ‘whispering’ at times from Marti Pellow.
And so to the performance ….. stand out and stunning performances from Maureen Nolan as Mrs Johnstone and Sean Jones as Mickey, fantastic Liverpool accents from two strong actors – neither natives of the city … with what was likely to be the only ‘true Scouser’ on the stage cast in the part of Mrs Lyons …. The ‘posh mum’!
His accent was sporadic, he appeared to be the only cast member fitted with a personal microphone which at times just didn’t do the trick – with those of us at the back straining to hear what he was saying and it felt like he played the part like a pop star, rather than an actor ….. However – he was and is … a pretty good pop star – so all was not lost !
The stage seemed quite small – however the cast used it well, minimal changes with some of the scenes being clear to the audience solely as the result of great acting …… I was almost back in ‘Sefton Park’ at times.
It’s unlikely I’ll see Blood Brothers again – I knew pretty much all of the words to all of the songs and when I found myself saying the next line ahead of the actor – it feels like it’s time to find a new ‘favourite show’ …. A great production at a nice venue to go out on !
• Good Points
– Great performances Maureen Nolan, Sean Jones
– Good set, well used
– Good ‘community feel’ to the venue
• Bad Points
- Marti Pellow’s performance for the whispering, accent
– Chairs not that comfortable
– Small stage
Set Design 8/10
ItsMuchMore Guest Editor : Sue O’Hagan
Saturday 7th November
Chesterfield Winding Wheel Theatre