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Marti Pellow & Niki Evans Feature

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 29th Oct 2012 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge


Marti Pellow as the Narrator in Blood Brothers - credit Keith Pattison.jpg
MARTI PELLOW & NIKI EVANS FEATURE

Few stage shows have received quite such acclaim as the multi-award-winning Blood Brothers, written by Willy Russell. The captivating and moving tale of twin brothers who, having been separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with tragic consequences, continues to receive standing ovations at every devastating performance. The critics have described it as ‘unmissable and unbeatable’ and hailed it as ‘the musical for all time.’

Yet, this accolade is something that Marti Pellow doesn’t wholeheartedly agree with.

“I think Blood Brothers is more a play with some songs,” asserts the former Wet Wet Wet frontman, who is currently appearing as the ominous Narrator in the touring production. “It’s a little bit different from other musicals.”

The multi-platinum selling recording artist has, in recent years, made a hugely successful transition from pop pin-up to fully-fledged West End leading man. His roles have included Darryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick, Billy Flynn in Chicago and the starring role in Jekyll & Hyde.

“I prefer the darker side of musical theatre,” he admits. “I really wouldn’t be interested in performing in the ‘bubbly’ musicals.”

So, is his current role sufficiently dark and challenging?

“I’m on stage more than anybody else, with the exception of Mrs Johnstone, so the role of Narrator is just as much of a challenge as any of the others I’ve done,” he explains. “It has a stillness that speaks volumes – I hope I do it justice.”

Pellow’s desire to perform well is something that is shared by Niki Evans who stars as the pivotal character, Mrs Johnstone.

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“When I first played the part, back in 2008, I didn’t realise how difficult it was going to be to put that level of emotion in,” she admits. “I cry every night during the final scene, it just gets me to the point where I’m absolutely sobbing my heart out.”

Evans recalls watching Blood Brothers for the first time and the impact it had on her.

“When I saw Lyn Paul play the part I was just absolutely speechless, her performance broke my heart and tore me to shreds. She was absolutely brilliant.”

During the last four years, Niki has reprised the role of Mrs Johnstone several times, having taken breaks to appear in Legally Blonde and pantomimes.

“The thing is, you have to take breaks when you’re playing such a big, emotionally-draining role,” she explains. “It’s not fair on the public if I’m just a robot saying lines and not feeling anything. I want the audience to go away feeling like I did when I saw Lyn Paul do it.”

Undoubtedly, the demands of performing in eight shows a week can sometimes take its toll, but Pellow and Evans are philosophical.

“I’ve been on the road for the last twenty-five years really, doing shows at night,” says Marti, matter-of-factly. “This is very similar.”

“You have to remember it’s a job not your life,” adds Niki. “So, you have to kind of detach yourself from what you’re doing.”

Both Evans and Pellow have performed in the West End production of Blood Brothers at the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Road, yet they each prefer the touring version.

“Touring audiences seem to ‘get it’ more than the West End, which has international audiences where the first four or five rows may be foreign and might not understand the references or accent,” Marti explains.

“I don’t really like London,” admits Niki. “I’m not a West End Wendy, I’m not a diva, I’m a working class Mum – and proud of it, as well.”

Although Niki’s association with Blood Brothers has spanned four years, Marti has only been involved with the production since 2011. However, during that time he has appeared opposite four different actresses playing Mrs Johnstone – Amy Robbins and Vivienne Carlyle in the West End and Maureen Nolan and Niki Evans on tour.

Niki has a great deal of empathy for her onstage alter-ego, a woman who starts out as a twenty-something single mother ‘with seven hungry mouths to feed and one more nearly due’, but ends up a down-trodden, distraught grandmother who has to comprehend the most tragic of events.

“Through a mixture of superstition and religion, she is bamboozled into giving one of her new-born twins away, but she is a very down to earth, loving, strong woman. Mrs Johnstone is such a fantastic character that once you’ve played her she never leaves you, she’s always with you.”

In complete contrast, Marti’s character is the sinister, spectral figure who skulks around the shadows of the stage, pondering the consequences of each and every decision Mrs Johnstone makes, reminding her that ‘the Devil’s got your number’. Pellow’s compelling and charismatic presence and captivating voice is perfectly suited to the role.

“I try to do a musical every couple of years,” he reveals. “Sometimes it’s like waiting for a bus and a couple will come along that I want to do.”

So, is Blood Brothers a bus he immediately knew he wanted to board?

“I thought: ‘Aye, I will do that’.”

It seems particularly pertinent that, in an age of recession, Blood Brothers’ themes are based upon social injustice and the systematic failures in dealing with the psychological fall-out.

“Willy Russell writes from his heart and from his own personal experiences,” says Niki. “Everything that happens in the play is happening in this country now. It really does reflect real life.”

Although Blood Brothers is famed for its devastating climax and emotionally-charged closing number, Tell Me It’s Not True, it also includes some great comedic moments.

“When I first watched the show, I was surprised by how funny it is,” admits Niki. “The whole piece is absolutely brilliant.”

Marti agrees: “For a couple of hours people want to leave their own lives behind, come to the theatre, and be entertained. The thing about musical theatre is that it’s all about escapism.”

Blood Brothers is at the The CivicTheatre, Darlington, from Monday 5 to Saturday 10 November. Tickets cost from £18 to £31 (concessions available). To book, call 01325 486 555 or log on to www.darlingtonarts.co.uk

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