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Russell: Blood Brothers

14. Act 2 – "You're great, you are, Mam" (pp. 56-67)

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About this Lecture


In this module, we continue to read through Act 2, from the moment that Edward and Mickey are caught by Mrs Johnstone on their way to the cinema to the moment that Mickey tells his mum how much he love her ("You're great, you are, Mam"). In particular, we focus on: (i) the sheer coincidence that Mrs Johnston is rehoused in precisely the same neighbourhood that the Lyons have just moved to; (ii) the changing power dynamic between Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons; (iii) the mirroring of Act 1 in Act 2; (iv) the trope of the 'mad woman'; (v) the contrast between the conflict between Mrs Johnston and Mrs Lyons and the camaraderie between Mickey and Edward; (vi) the importance of the fact that Mickey and Edward don't see the policeman coming (whereas we, the audience, do); (vii) the brief moment of happiness between Mickey, Edward and Linda, which is fractured when Edward goes to university and Mickey kisses Linda; (viii) the connection between the changing of the seasons and the changing of Edward and Mickey's fates ("Winter broke the promise that Summer had just made"); (ix) the innocence of Edward, Mickey and Linda; and (x) the extent to which the mothers are to blame for the tragedy.


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 2 – "You're great, you are, Mam" (pp. 56-67) [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Russell: Blood Brothers – Act 2 – "You're great, you are, Mam" (pp. 56-67)." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Jan 2022,