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Russell: Blood Brothers

9. Act 1 – "They shall be raised apart" (pp. 13-19)

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About this Lecture


In this module, we continue reading through Act 1 from the moment that the babies are born to the moment that Mrs Johnstone is dismissed from Mrs Lyons' employment. In particular, we focus on: (i) the concept of "living on the never never"; (ii) the character of Mrs Johnstone – is it fair to describe her as "feckless"?; (iii) Mrs Lyons' use of money to smooth over the situation; and (iv) Mrs Lyons' use of superstition to ensure that Mrs Johnstone doesn't tell anyone about their transaction ("You won't tell anyone about this, Mrs Johnstone, because if you do, you will kill them.")


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 – "They shall be raised apart" (pp. 13-19) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Russell: Blood Brothers – Act 1 – "They shall be raised apart" (pp. 13-19)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Jan 2022,

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