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Russell: Blood Brothers

11. Act 1 – "Oh, bright new day" (pp. 32-45)

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In this module, we continue to read through Act from the kids' chorus ("The whole thing's just a game") to the end of Act 1. In particular, we focus on: (i) the importance of swearing in the play, both as a marker of social class and in terms of its contribution to the play's realism; (ii) the presence of guns throughout the play – first the toy gun, then the air gun – anticipating what will happen at the end of the play; (iii) the arrival of the policeman, another anticipation of the end of the play; (iv) the mention of "gypsies"; (v) Mrs Lyons' comment that she doesn't want Edward out "playing" anywhere, and the various meanings of the word "playing" in the context of drama; (vi) the different way that the policeman speaks to Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons about the behaviours of their sons; (vii) the character of Mrs Lyons; (viii) the importance of accent as a marker of social class; (ix) the separation and togetherness of Edward and Mickey, who stand apart on the stage but sing in unison ("My friend"); (x) the sense of hope with which Act 1 ends ("Oh, bright new day").


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Willy Russell's Blood Brothers. The first six modules serve as an introduction to play, exploring the play's historical context, the extent to which it is a 'Brechtian' play, the fact that we are told in the very first scene what will happen at the end, and the themes of superstition, nature and nurture, and destiny and fate. In the following nine modules, we go through the play scene by scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes, language, symbolism, and more.

Note: We use the Methuen Drama version of the play (ed. Jim Mulligan). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in the page numbers.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2022, January 29). Russell: Blood Brothers - Act 1 – "Oh, bright new day" (pp. 32-45) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Russell: Blood Brothers – Act 1 – "Oh, bright new day" (pp. 32-45)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Jan 2022,

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