English Literature

  • Created by: sib123
  • Created on: 12-12-18 11:49


Blood Brothers, a musical by Liverpudlian playwright Willy Russell, revolves around twin boys (Mickey and Edward) who are separated at birth and brought up in completely different environments in the city. The play, set in the 1960s, is divided into two acts, with songs throughout.

Mickey is brought up with his seven older siblings by his struggling single mother, Mrs Johnstone. His twin brother, Edward, however is brought up as the only child of the wealthy Lyons family, who live nearby, after Mrs Lyons persuaded Mrs Johnstone to hand over one of her twins at birth. Mickey and Edward don’t meet each other until they’re seven years old, but immediately become best friends and blood brothers. The bond continues when the boys are teenagers and both live in the countryside, despite them both being in love with Mickey’s neighbour Linda. However, as they get older, the huge difference in their backgrounds pulls them apart and eventually leads to their tragic deaths.

Written during a period of huge changes in society and politics, Blood Brothers draws the audience’s attention to the detrimental effect that social inequality can have on people’s lives.

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BLOOD BROTHERS - Key Plot Details

  1. Mrs Johnstone, a struggling single mother of seven, finds out that she is pregnant with twins. Her employer, Mrs Lyons persuades Mrs Johnstone to give her one of the babies.Mrs Lyons takes Edward and brings him up as her own, convincing her husband this is true. Mrs Johnstone goes back to work but fusses over Edward, leading to Mrs Lyons firing her.Aged seven, Mickey and Edward meet and become best friends, along with Mickey’s neighbour Linda. The three get into trouble with the police when they begin to throw stones at windows.Scared of Edward becoming close to his biological family, Mrs Lyons convinces her husband to move the family to the countryside. Soon afterwards, the Johnstones (and Linda’s family) are rehoused by the council.As teenagers, Mickey and Edward meet again and they rekindle their friendship. Linda and the boys remain close throughout their teenage years before Edward goes to university.After marrying a pregnant Linda, Mickey loses his factory job. Unemployed, Mickey is involved in a crime with one of his brothers, Sammy, and both are sent to prison.Mickey becomes depressed and takes pills to help him cope, which he continues to take after being released.After Mickey comes out of prison and starts a new job, Edward and Linda start a light romance. Mickey finds out and is furious so he finds Sammy’s gun and goes to find Edward at his workplace, the town hall.Mrs Johnstone follows Mickey and tells him in front of Edward that they are twins. The police also arrives. Mickey waves the gun around and it accidentally goes off, killing Edward. The police shoot Mickey. The twins both lie dead.
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The main themes include:

  • social class and inequality
  • superstition and fate
  • violence
  • Russell also introduces the idea of superstition through the character of Mrs Johnstone. Should we accept that fate is in control of our lives or are other factors more important?

    Another theme introduced in the play is violence. This is present in Mickey’s life from when we meet him at the age of seven and gets worse and worse until his and Edward’s deaths at the end of the play.

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BLOOD BROTHERS - Superstition and Fate

Mrs Johnstone’s superstition is revealed early on in Blood Brothers and is one of the things that gives Mrs Lyons power over her. This is linked to fate and destiny, because Mickey and Edward’s death is shown to be inevitable from the opening scene, making the superstition Mrs Lyons tells Mrs Johnstone about the twins come true. The narrator is a key character for this theme, as he reminds the audience of the twins’ fate at several different points of the play. However, while superstition and fate are very important themes in Blood Brothers, Russell questions whether they really exist or whether social class is more important in determining Mickey and Edward’s futures.

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Violence has a presence in the working class characters’ lives from a young age. When we first meet Mickey as a seven year old, he has a toy gun and he plays games involving imaginary guns with his friends and neighbours. The violence escalates as the play progresses, culminating in the tragic death of Mickey and Edward. Sammy, Mickey’s older brother, is a key character linked to this theme and he is connected in some way to most of the violent acts in the play. Violence reflects a lack of control; when characters start to lose power in some way, they become more violent.

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The play is written in lines of dialogue, with stage directions and songs to be sung by particular characters at different points.

The songs in Blood Brothers are used for different purposes: they can reveal more information about characters’ thoughts and feelings; they can remind the audience of key ideas and themes; they can create mood and atmosphere; and they can further the plot and explain parts of the storyline.

When you read the play, it is important to pay close attention to the lyrics of the songs as they can reveal a lot of useful information about characters and events. The stage directions are also significant because they show the reader how the characters behave and interact with each other and Russell uses them to prompt key events in the storyline.

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Aside from the opening of Blood Brothers, the play is chronological. At the very beginning, the audience is shown the dead bodies of Mickey and Edward on stage and the Narrator explains that they have died on the same day they have discovered that they are brothers. The rest of Act one reveals how the twins came to be separated and then shows the audience the contrast in their childhoods. Sympathy for Mrs Johnstone is created in this part of the play because of the hardship of her life. Act one ends hopefully, with the optimistic song Oh Bright New Day demonstrating how happy she is to get a new start for her family in the countryside.Act two starts on the same positive note, with the Johnstone family much more content in their new home. However, while Act one becomes increasingly happier, the events of the second act get more and more tragic as Mickey reaches adulthood, culminating in the death of Mickey and Edward.In both acts, Russell uses songs to fill in gaps where time passes, such as the Summer Sequence in Act two (which shows Mickey, Edward and Linda’s friendship as they age from 14 to 18). Songs also provide information about what has previously happened, such as Marilyn Monroe sung by Mrs Johnstone in Act one, where she describes her life with her husband before he left her.

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The language used in Blood Brothers is primarily naturalistic, to give a realistic impression of conversation between the characters. There is however some use of figurative language in the songs drawing the audience’s attention to important themes.

One of the key elements of Russell’s use of language in Blood Brothers is the difference between the way the working class characters speak and the way the middle class characters speak. When Mickey and Edward first speak, this contrast is funny for the audience. However, as the play progresses and the twins grow up, the differences between the way they speak emphasises how separate their lives and experiences are, due to their social classes.

The naturalistic way the characters speak means that their emotions are often revealed through how fluent their lines are. When characters are very upset or angry, they speak using a broken syntax, meaning that their sentences are fragmented, with pauses and incomplete moments.

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