The collected interviews of Jim Mulligan

Andrew Schofield on playing The Narrator in Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers"

I was the first narrator so in a sense, I created the part but in reality it was all there.

When Andrew Schofield was at school he was selected to play a Scouse lad in Willy Russell's Death of a Young Young Man. Eight years later, he auditioned to play the guitar in Blood Brothers in the first production at the Liverpool Playhouse.


I didn't pass the audition for that, but I was offered the part of the narrator. I have a feeling Willy wanted me for it. To be honest, at first I thought the play was a bit sentimental. I wasn't bothered that it was too obviously political or stating the obvious about class in Britain, but I just thought it was sentimental. And then at the first run-through, I found myself sitting there actually crying at the scene where Eddie gives Mickey a present because he's going away. Once when I was kid we moved away and it brought it all back to me. That's the point about Willy. He writes about things that have actually happened to people. I don't mean everyone has had twins and given one away, but we've all experienced directly or indirectly the hardship that Mrs. Johnstone goes through. It's a powerful and simple thing: your life is determined by the class you are in. And it's even more true now than it was when he wrote it. You test kids so that the majority fail, and then you filter out a few from the ones who pass.

I was the first narrator so in a sense, I created the part but in reality it was all there. I just followed my instinct. At the first run-through I was sitting next to the director, Chris Bond, and when we came to the Milkman, he said, 'You read that', and the same with the Judge and the Teacher. You don't know whether Willy had meant it to be like that but I suppose Chris had it all worked out. I was on stage most of the time except when I went off to change for one of the other parts. I've only seen the play once since then, but I understand the role of the narrator has been simplified. When I prepare for a part I do a lot of note-taking and reading, but I don't like to waffle and I try to keep it simple. So, I saw the narrator as one of the old story-tellers, and a bit like the Greek chorus. I don't see him as a sinister person. He's not cruel or sly. Not like Mephistopheles. But he does have knowledge. He is not the controller of events, but he is able to say, 'Here's what happens next' or, 'Watch what happens next'. I saw him as being sympathetic but detached.

I loved the part. I did eight weeks in Liverpool, and then three months in the West End. We had a great cast, and we slipped in and out of the parts easily. There was no problem about playing the parts of kids. We all had a great time in rehearsal, remembering the games we used to play and incorporating them into the songs. I left the production because I wouldn't have done it justice if I'd stayed any longer. People would have been paying money to see me looking bored.

I think it's a great play for kids to study. They can relate to it immediately. What teenager doesn't understand the friendship of the boys, the mother's plight, the first kiss, the temptation of crime, the unexpected pregnancy, the young woman trapped in a marriage and the lure of romantic love even though it threatens a relationship?