I know when my son has friends over to the house as the air fills with chimes, bird song and the occasional quacking duck. It isn’t, however, like a scene from a Disney movie. The bluebirds don’t come and line up the giant shoes that fill the hallway or hang up the pile of hoodies that collects at the foot of the stairs. There aren’t even seven dwarfs as most of them tower over me.
Instead, the chimes are from the collection of phones and gadgets that seem to accompany them wherever they go. Alerts ring out as they climb the stairs, checking their screens as they disappear into the teenage den at the top.
So, it was with some trepidation that I leant across the seats at The Empire Theatre in Sunderland and whispered “Phones off guys!” as the violin music from the pit made its way up to our seats in the Gallery. Would they survive for three hours with no digital interruption?
We’d come to see Blood Brothers. Willy Russell’s award winning play, originally developed as a school play in conjunction with Merseyside Young People’s Theatre in 1982.
It’s a peculiar thing but of all the books I love, all the plays and poems I enjoy, it’s the ones that I studied at school that I hold dearest. Possibly because they’re the only ones where I had someone to explain what was actually going on – “Heart of Darkness and the Imperialist nightmare” anyone?
This year schools in the region are studying Blood Brothers, the story of two brothers, separated at birth by poverty and a mother’s desperation. The idea was to cement some of the learning that had been done crouched over wooden desks in hot classrooms with a bit of moonlight and magic and dance.
But would they sit still? Would they resist the lure of their phones?
As the curtains rose and the first song began the boys sat up straight and their eyes widened. We watched Mrs. Johnstone’s heart break as she gave away Edward, one of her twin babies, watched with wonder as the brothers reunited as young boys and then again as grown men – with fatal consequences.
And, apart from the slow motion movement of Malteser to mouth, the boys didn’t move. They remained focused and entranced. Facebook had nothing on this. Even Twitter couldn’t keep them still for three whole hours. And as we saw the tears pouring down the face of the big burly bald bloke in front of us my son turned to his mate and whispered “It WAS really, really sad wasn’t it? Just look at him!”
by Katherine Wildman © 2014
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