Katherine MacAlister gives you the run down on Blood Brothers at New Theatre

As the epic musical Blood Brothers rolls into Oxford’s New Theatre for its week long run, its star Sean Jones has time to reflect on his 15 year tenure in the global phenomenon.

If you haven’t seen it, Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret.

Sean plays Mickey, one of the twins, a part he has ably taken on for more than 15 years.

So how did it all begin?

“I’ve been in the show for 17 years on and off, and been Mickey for 15 (mid picture).

“As for the character, it’s basically me but with drug addiction and jail terms thrown in,” he laughs.

And then he stops, before answering more seriously: “It’s very similar to myself, actually – I was expelled from school, so when I first saw the show, I thought, ‘I get this’.

“The only downside of it was that it’s a musical and I wasn’t very ‘musical theatre’.

“I didn’t train to do musical theatre in Wales where I’m from, and had never done a day’s dance class in my life.”

So how did he still managed to land the part, his dream role?

“Well, it was very random, My agent knew I was obsessed with the part of Mickey, but I never thought it would turn into something.

“The audition was for the part of understudy to Mickey so I learned a song and went in and thought, ‘you know what, I’m in the producer’s office and I’m just going to go for it.’

“I really didn’t think I’d get it but I did so I understudied for two years, then re-auditioned for Bill and got that part as well.

He pauses, before explaining: “In this job, it’s very rare that you get to play a part that you want to play,” he explains.

For those who have never seen the show or know anything about it, without giving too much away, can he tell us about his fascination with the Blood Brothers story and the attraction of playing Mickey?

“It’s the story of twin boys separated at birth. One stays with his working class mother (me) while the other one is given away to a rich family. That’s the story in a nutshell.

“The characters grow up in 1960s and 1970s Liverpool so it’s also about how that pertained to politics and the class divide.

“I suppose it’s an examination of nature versus nurture because nothing goes right for Mickey. He gets expelled from school and goes on the dole because of the unemployment situation at the time.

“And yet his twin brother, who was given away, has a great education and goes to university. But fate keeps pulling them together and they become really good friends. As they get older however, the differences between them become more stark.”

So how does Sean play Mickey as a child and then as a grown man, and bridge those two generations so well?

“First and foremost, it’s the writing. Willy Russell has written the part of a seven-year-old boy perfectly, he really understood what the essence of playing that age is.

“They don’t just let you put on a silly, childlike voice and walk like a kid.

“What they want is to find the essence of being that age, to suspend the audience’s disbelief. It needs to be storytelling, it’s make-believe.

“So I run on stage in a baggy jumper and I sit on the edge of the stage and tell the audience I’m seven-years-old and they accept it. They get so engrossed in the characters they forget they’re watching adults.

And don’t his own family come on tour with him? “They used to come on the road with me, the missus (Tracey Spencer who played Mrs Lyons) was in the show as well – before and after Elinor (our little girl) was born. But now Elinor’s in school.

“It’s okay though because the rest of the cast are like a big family too so it’s brilliant because it’s very vibrant and good fun.

“It’s very down to earth with a lot of banter behind the scenes and there are some people that I have been working with since day one.

Blood Brothers, New Theatre, Oxford, Monday-Saturday. Tickets from 0844 871 3020 or atgtickets.com/oxford