As Robbie Scotcher – the narrator in Blood Brothers – says, post-show you will get to chat with members of the audience who’ve seen it 17 times or 15 times or however many times – people who will always come back for more.
You will also get to meet people who have just been wowed by seeing it for the first time. The response is always the same. People love it. And the reason, quite simply, is the writing, says Robbie. The show heads to Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday, February 4-Saturday, February 8.
“It really is exceptional writing,” Robbie says. “And it is writing that mirrors society so strongly. It is relevant and it matters. And it always seems to hit home. It has got so many lines that resonate.
“The musical actually started life as a play with quite a small cast. I play the narrator, and in that first show, the narrator spoke to the audience and then put on a hat and was the milkman and so on. But as the show grew, they added songs and changed everything around, but what is interesting is that there have been lots of different incarnations. At one point the music was quite folky, nearly skiffle, and then it went into the West End and changed. The music became more synthesised. But the story itself has never changed. That’s the one thing that has been constant.”
As for the narrator, Robbie believes it harks back to the old-fashioned thing of a troupe of actors turning up in a town and planting a flag in the ground announcing that at 4pm there will be a performance: “And it is like that with the narrator when he starts off the show by saying ‘Have you heard the story of the Johnstone twins?’”
As for who the narrator is, Robbie says he has heard it all. Some people say he is Eddie’s father. Some people say he is another of the children. Some people say he is the devil.
“I think he is just the storyteller. It is a story that he has got to tell at 7.30 every night even though there are some parts of the story he finds difficult to tell. Different actors play it in different ways, and different directors look at in different ways.
(Producer and original director) Bill Kenwright and (current director) Bob Tomson look at the narrator in different ways, and I have been directed by both of them. Bill’s view is that even if the narrator wasn’t there, it would all still happen anyway; that I don’t conjure up the action, I am just pointing things out. For Bob, there are moments where I will give a nod to the actors.”
Robbie himself sees the role of the narrator in terms of the superego – that voice which says to you as you leave the house ‘You should have done the washing up! No, I will leave it. Oh, OK, I will go back and do it.’
“There is conscience there and it is important to what happens. Mrs Lyons doesn’t go mad because there is a spooky man in a black suit chasing her around the stage. She goes mad because of her actions, because of what she has done.”
In a way, the narrator helps keep the audience totally involved – crucial to enjoyment: “We get a lot of school kids in, and in a way they are the most important part of our audience. You have got to be thinking that our performance could be the difference between them getting a C grade or an A grade in their exams. It is about the effort that you put in and what they can take away, about just how much you can capture them with what is happening on the stage.”