EFR - Reviews of Blood Ties

Blood Ties

Mon 12th – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Christian Kriticos

at 09:55 on 20th Aug 2013

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Finding the splattered remains of a suicide victim in the bathroom can really ruin a bachelorette party. This is the dilemma of Franny, Paul and Larry, three friends who make this shocking discovery in the home of bride-to-be Sheila whilst making their surprise party preparations. Songs such as ‘Blood in the Bathroom’ and the catchy pre-cleanup number ‘Dirty Work’ might have been in bad taste in less skilful hands, but the lyrics (by Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston) are so sharp and the cast so perfect that it is nothing short of hilarious.

When Sheila finds her friends in her home she has some explaining to do, and tells them that her uncle (by marriage) committed suicide earlier that day. This all sounds very convincing and the friends (reluctantly) promise to help her out. But when Sheila insists they mention this all to no one, and several unusual discoveries are made it soon becomes evident that something more sinister is at play. Slightly worryingly this is all based on a true story, according to the programme.

Alongside this main plotline we also have Paul’s secret love for Franny bubbling under the surface, culminating in the superbly funny love ballad ‘Franny’. Paul, the fashion-conscious and squeamish gay best friend, who perks up when Sheila says he can help himself to her deceased Uncle’s collection of Armani suits and translates this into song in "Dress Like A Dead Man". His character might smack of stereotyping were he not so excellently played by Michael De Rose. To single out one individual cast member, however, is unfair, as everyone is exceptional. With a cast of only five, the production team have miraculously assembled a piece of the utmost professionalism.

Although ‘Blood Ties’ is clearly a show of incredibly high quality, it stops short of being perfect, due to a shift of tone in its closing stages and a rather abrupt ending. The show is at its strongest during its comedic moments, and these seem to have all disappeared by the end.

Having said this, I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed by ‘Blood Ties’. If you are looking for a good comedy, a good musical, or any good old time, then ‘Blood Ties’ is a sure bet.

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Hannah Greenstreet

at 10:03 on 20th Aug 2013

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With a bachelorette party that has gone horribly wrong, brains on the mirror and blood all over the bathroom, ‘Blood Ties’ is not your ordinary musical. Familiar, well-loved themes, such as the things we are prepared to do for our friends, are given a refreshingly dark twist in this irresistibly catchy production.

Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston, who play the bride, Sheila, and the bride’s best friend, Franny, respectively, co-wrote the musical whilst at drama school in Canada. The cast work well together, capturing not just the supportive side of friendship but also the annoyances and the tensions. While ‘Blood Ties’ may be a little light on plot, the piece is effective in its slow exposition of secrets by, among other things, a singing ghost of Sheila’s dead uncle (played by Kent Sheridan), whose brains have been spattered over the bathroom.

The company use the space well, leaving the horrors of the bathroom to the imagination behind a door, a great contrast to the tastefully decorated sitting room that forms the set. It might have been better to have the piano onstage but its absence is understandable given the space constraints.

The music is well composed and the cast are all strong singers, particularly Johnston and Michael De Rose, who plays Larry. One of my favourite songs was Paul’s (played by Carter Hayden) serenade to Franny, which he has been planning for so long that he insists he must consult his notes. The lyrics are generally witty and are delivered with excellent comic timing; the chorus work and harmonies are pleasing, particularly when the pace becomes frenetic with the increasing tension, such as in ‘I’ve Got a Bad Feeling’. The opening song about growing up and moving on becomes a lot more sinister with its reprise, the changed circumstances reflected in the dissonant, minor chords. Although I did not leave the production humming the tunes, the songs were a great contributing factor to my enjoyment of the evening.

Most of all, ‘Blood Ties’ is slick and polished, which is key for the success of a musical. And, according to the programme, it’s based on a true story, which is frankly terrifying when you know the ending.

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