Blood Brothers – hear the tale of the Johnson Twins

With Willy Russell’s iconic West End musical Blood Brothers in full swing at Melbourne’s Chapel-Off-Chapel until April 6, AussieTheatre took time out to hear from the Johnson Twins – Gareth Keegan and Matthew Bradford. The actors playing the twins (as alike born as two new pins) the tough questions about writer Willy Russell, leading lady Chelsea Plumley and just what it means to be Blood Brothers…

Gareth Keegan (Mickey)

Blood Brothers
Blood Brothers at Chapel off Chapel

1) When/Where/How did you first see Blood Brothers? Do you remember who was playing you character?

I heard the Australian cast recording when I was little. For some reason it was in the car.

2) Willy Russell has written some defining stage plays but Blood Brothers is his only musical. Do you think he should write another one?

As Jerry Seinfeld says ‘End on a High note’

3) Did you think you’d play this Johnston twin or do you sometimes fantasise about swapping character?
I really like Michael. He’s a bit of a mischief maker. I always thought I would play Mickey.

4) What is your favourite scene and/or song in the show?

I would have to say singing BV’S Backstage watching our MD Andrew Patterson mime his pants off to give us our cutoffs!!

5) Blood Brothers is one of the most successful West End shows of all time. What do you think made it such a smash?
Story and Script! The two essential S’s!
6) What’s your sure fire tip for maintaining your accent throughout the show?
Saying “F**k” a lot. It’s the best accent if you want to have a good swear!!

7) What is your favourite song right now?

Matt Corby ‘What the Devil Has Made.’

8) If you could see any musical in the world tonight what would it be?
Sunday In The Park With George.
9) Complete this sentence: “When Chelsea Plumley sings ‘Tell Me it’s Not True’ I…”
Drool, as I’m lying on the floor at that point.
10) What is your top reason why people need to see Blood Brothers?

When every aspect in a musical work together in Harmony, that makes a good musical great. Blood Brothers does this. It’s a roller coaster ride for the audience. Willy Russell’s script is rich with comedy and very touching moments. A great piece for any era.

Matthew Bradford (Eddie)

1) When/Where/How did you first see Blood Brothers? Do you remember who was playing you character?

This is actually my first experience with Blood Brothers. I had always heard of productions appearing, but never managed to make it to one. It has been a lot of fun and hard work bring to life the world of these people, especially when the story covers such a vast period of time.

2) Willy Russell has written some defining stage plays but Blood Brothers is his only musical. Do you think he should write another one?

Willy Russell has such an unapologetic and honest way of viewing a certain period of time in any of his works, with a certain focus on the English class system. I definitely would be intrigued to see what his views of today’s world be.

3) Did you think you’d play this Johnston twin or do you sometimes fantasise about swapping character?

Having no previous experience with the show, I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of which character I would suit. It has been so much fun playing Eddie, especially in his younger years, that I couldn’t imagine swapping. Gareth is just brilliant as Mickey and I really feel that we’ve been able to create a strong dynamic with very different characters.

4) What is your favourite scene and/or song in the show?

I really enjoy ‘Light Romance/Madman’ near the end of the show, sung by Chelsea Plumley and Simon Wilton, who both sing it beautifully. The music and lyrics convey so much in the short amount of time, and ultimately is the catalyst that drives the narrative on to the conclusion.

5) Blood Brothers is one of the most successful West End shows of all time. What do you think made it such a smash?

The exploration of maternal themes throughout Blood Brothers are so universal that it is easy to see why audiences are so taken to the very moving story. It has such a well-written and emotional script that covers such a huge amount of time, but never drags or loses that momentum as we follow the lives of these young boys as they grow into men. Willy Russell is quite happy not to pull any punches in terms of his narrative choices. As an audience, drama is driven by conflict, and in Blood Brothers he explores the idea of ‘conflict’ on a number of different levels, which allows audiences of any age or gender a way to connect with the story.

6) What’s your sure fire tip for maintaining your accent throughout the show?

You just have to attack it, whether it be a proper English accent or the very colourful Scouse accent of the area. It requires a lot of energy to be maintained throughout the performance, all the while ensuring the clarity so the audience can engage in the story.

7) What is your favourite song right now?

The Who – ‘You Better You Bet’

8) If you could see any musical in the world tonight what would it be?

I’m not meaning to sound arrogant, but I’d really love to sit in the audience for this production of ‘Blood Brothers’. To see the amazing lighting, sound, and the band playing as an audience member would be great.

9) Complete this sentence: “When Chelsea Plumley sings ‘Tell Me it’s Not True’ I…”

When Chelsea Plumley sings ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ I try not so starting sobbing. It is a beautifully written song, and Chelsea just nails it every time.

10) What is your top reason why people need to see Blood Brothers?

This is such a unique and intimate production. Even if you’ve seen Blood Brothers before, this particular production aims to bring the audience as close to the action occurring onstage as possible. Chris Parker has brought together the strongest team possible, both cast and crew, to deliver a production of Blood Brothers that is new and fresh.

Blood Brothers is playing at Melbourne’s Chapel-Off-Chapel as part of a Manilla Street Production. Information about the show is available on their Facebook page here. Tickets are available here.

Blood Brothers stars Chelsea Plumley as Mrs Johnson, Gareth Keegan and Matthew Bradford as Mickey and Eddie Johnson respectively, and is directed by Chris Parker.

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David has written 179 articles on AussieTheatre | Read more articles by