The West Island School gives musical Blood Brothers a Hong Kong twist

By Ariel Conant

Actors from West Island School bring the classic musical Blood Brothers to life, with issues they think Hongkongers will understand and connect with

By Ariel Conant |

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WIS students play multiple roles in the play.

The auditorium at West Island School (WIS) is filled with giggles and chatting. Scripts are everywhere and students sit in small groups practising their lines, ready to begin their rehearsal. It's a diverse group, and each student has something special to contribute.

The play is Blood Brothers, written by British author and lyrics writer Willy Russell. The story takes place in the 1960s in the city of Liverpool, and focuses on two brothers - Mickey and Eddie - who were separated at birth. One brother is raised in a wealthy family, while the other is brought up in poverty.

Without knowing they are brothers, the two boys form a close friendship. Their different upbringings lead them along very different paths, however, with a tragic end.

Although the play is set more than 50 years ago in a different country, the cast find that the play still connects with issues they see in Hong Kong society today. "There are some themes that really link to Hong Kong," says 15-year-old Xaviera Artaza. "The theme of the play is societal classes. You can see that growing a lot in Hong Kong."

For Xaviera, the biggest connection she saw was how the maid in the play was treated by her employers. She thinks this is similar to the situation of many domestic helpers in Hong Kong. "People treat them differently," she says.

The difference in social class and opportunities is a theme the students believe that most people in Hong Kong can understand. Sorcha Jackson, 16, thinks that the way Mickey and Eddie's lives separate reflects how much a person's upbringing can affect their future.

"I mean, they're brothers," she says. "They started out the same, but just because one of them ended up with a different set of parents, he had a different set of opportunities."

And getting set on a different path in life is something Sorcha sees a lot in Hong Kong. "Different people from different backgrounds are presented with different opportunities," she says. "Maybe they were just in the right place at the right time. It can be pure luck."

But the play has a much lighter side to it as well. Patrick McCool, 15, likes the first half of the play when the two brothers become friends as children. "I think that as children in the play, they show what society should have been like," Patrick says, "with everyone connecting with each other and not discriminating."

And in fact, Patrick sees a broader message in the brothers' friendship. "The reason they bond and the reason they want to become best friends is their differences," he says. "It shows that with friendship, if everyone was the same, it would be really boring and a connection with different people is important."

With 58 students acting in the show, the WIS production is a lot of work. And they're using an unusual approach as well: multi-casting. Caitlin Neuville, 15, explains: "For all the leads, we have two or three people playing each character. We're on stage at the same time and we split up the lines. It gives a wide range of feelings as each person brings something different."

Along with a group of student dancers, musicians and chorus members, 15 students work together to share the seven lead roles. But the students say it's not confusing at all. "It's really fun to see how different people interpret the characters," says Caitlin.

And the students' enthusiasm is obvious. "This play is exciting, exhilarating, and absolutely amazing!" exclaims Olivian Wong, 15. Janhavi More, 15, insists that although the themes of the play sound mature, the play itself is more fun than anything else. "It's got something for all age groups," she explains. "There's music, there's singing, there's everything for everyone. Everyone will be engaged."

"The play is a wonderful celebration of friendship and happiness, plus a tragic ending that will bring tears to your eyes," agrees Alexandra Churchill, also 15, adding: "And [we all] put a lot of effort into this play, so it really is worth seeing."

WIS will present Blood Brothers on the evenings of November 5 and 6. Check out the West Island School website for further details on ticketing.