Use of structure in Blood Brothers

The play is structured in two acts. The first act starts in the early 1960s, before the birth of the twins, Mickey and Edward, and moves on seven years to when the boys meet as children. The second act resumes when Mickey and Edward are in their teens, and tracks them through to adulthood. Chunks of time are passed over in order to focus on the pivotal events in the lives of the twins.

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.

Blood Brothers – List of songs

SongSung byWhat this shows or represents
Marilyn MonroeMrs JohnstoneThis gives us Mrs Johnstone’s background and shows how difficult things are for her, as well as her vibrancy as a young woman prior to marriage. Later on, Mrs Johnstone sings about Marilyn Monroe when she discusses Mickey’s depression after he is sent to prison. Marilyn Monroe’s tragic decline is a significant reference point in the play.
My ChildMrs Lyons and Mrs JohnstoneThis demonstrates the differences between the Lyons and Johnstone families. Mrs Lyons persuades Mrs Johnstone to give her one of her twins by reminding her of all the privileges she will be able to give her child.
Easy TermsMrs JohnstoneThis shows the audience how, as a working-class single mother, Mrs Johnstone feels that she never has anything permanent of her own.
Kids GameMickey, Linda, Sammy and other children (their neighbours)This song shows the fun that the children are having together, but it also introduces the idea of violence and shows that the children are interested in guns, particularly Sammy.
Shoes upon the TableNarratorThe Narrator reminds the mothers throughout the play of their guilt and the consequences of this. This song is strongly linked to the theme of superstition and fate.
My FriendMickey and EdwardThis song shows the strong bond between Mickey and Edward when they are children. It suggests that the differences between them attract them to each other.
Bright New DayMrs JohnstoneThis demonstrates how hopeful Mrs Johnstone is about her family’s future when she finds out they are moving to the countryside.
I’m Not Saying A WordEdwardEdward tells Linda about his true feelings for her, but also that he will not act on them because of his friendship with Mickey.
Take A Letter Miss JonesMr LyonsThis illustrates the mass unemployment that was taking place in industrial cities such as Liverpool and the almost disposable nature of the workforce. This song is the start of Mickey’s downfall as this is when he loses his job.
Tell Me It’s Not TrueAll cast (except Mickey and Edward)This song takes place at the end of the play, when Mickey and Edward are lying dead on stage. This reflects the tragedy of the ending.

How to analyse structure

  • Starting and ending with the death of the twins reminds the audience of the inevitability of their deaths.
  • The events of the play become sadder and more difficult as the brothers reach adulthood. This reflects how Mickey’s social class affects him negatively more and more as he reaches adulthood and he is unable to escape the inevitability of unemployment and the consequences of this.
  • Songs are used throughout the play to give more information about events and periods of time that cannot be covered in the play.