"So. Did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins?

        As like each other as two new pins?"

Carl Wayne played the key role of the Narrator in Willy Russell’s outstanding West End hit musical Blood Brothers for six years. He made his debut in the show at London’s Albery Theatre in October 1990 and gave his final performance at London’s Phoenix Theatre (where the show transferred in 1991) in June 1996. During this time he starred opposite Barbara Dickson, Kiki Dee and Stephanie Lawrence, to name a few.

His association with the show began when he was persuaded by a friend to go and see it, looking particularly at the role of the Narrator. He was immediately  impressed. Keen to play the role, he had learnt all of the songs and the script before getting an audition. The rest, as they say, is history.  

Carl Wayne and Stephanie Lawrence 1992

The Narrator is a dynamic, complex character and open to interpretation from actor and audience alike. He is arguably the male lead in that he opens and closes the show and rarely leaves the stage throughout. His is a demanding yet fulfilling role. Says Carl:

"...it's tough, because you go on at the beginning and you come off at the end and you're on for the whole three hours...then I kind of had an actor's life, a disciplined life, where I was directed and produced. And I think that stood me in good stead for the future..."  

The Narrator, 1992

Dressed simply in a smart black suit and tie, the Narrator looms over the proceedings, watching events and situations unfold and waiting for the inevitable tragedy. He rarely speaks directly to the other characters, but instills his presence by issuing recurring words of warning and advice throughout, narrating certain parts of the action and moving the story along. His speeches are both sung and spoken, and the reprised “Shoes on the Table” is a rocky, up-tempo number.

His words are riddled with references to ancient folklore. They centre around superstition and the idea that fate alone controls destiny:

"Shoes Upon the Table, and a spider's been killed / Someone broke the looking glass / There's a full moon shining and the salt's been spilled / You're walking on the pavement cracks / Don't know what's gonna come to pass / Now you know the Devil's got your number..."

Often, the Narrator can also be read as the voice of consciousness for both blighted mothers. He knows what will happen in the end, because he starts the show by telling us and reminds us constantly throughout that something terrible is imminent.

Carl’s Narrator was an ambiguous and intriguing figure, in that we were never sure exactly what he was thinking or feeling.  Emotions were kept very much in check, particularly in the final tragic scene where Russell’s social commentary was spoken with the same calm indifference and control as the opening lines. Shrouded in mystery and darkness Carl’s stage presence was overwhelming. “Macho and mesmerizing”, he exuded power and control; the happenings seemed almost to be under his influence. As one fan of the show remarks:

"Carl Wayne is my ideal Narrator because he carries off the role so effortlessly. His stage presence is astounding and you just know he means business when he strolls onto the stage..."

Carl Wayne and Kate Dyson, 1993

He moved about the set and assisted scene changes with ease, appeared out of doorways without warning, and lurked malevolently in the shadows. His powerful voice lent itself brilliantly to Russell’s score, and he managed to bring amazing vocal variation to the recurring theme.

Carl Wayne and Russell Boulter


This Narrator’s disdain for the characters surrounding him and his sick delight in their mistakes and inadequacies was often subtly apparent. However, another side of  the character was often visible; there were times when we saw hints of an all-knowing, all-seeing father figure who took responsibility for the wretched children, who accepted that he had no influence over their destinies, who knew his words were falling on deaf ears, that they were meaningless in the scheme of things.  


Undoubtedly, Carl gave the role his very own stamp and he has been praised as the “Definitive” and the “Narrator to beat.” His inimitable interpretation of a great role in a terrific musical illustrated his tremendous versatility as an artist and marked a  successful transition from Sixties Rock Front Man to West End Star.


1996 London Cast

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