Blood Brothers

Theatre Royal Bath

Until Saturday January 20

FROM the stunning night-time Liverpool backdrop as the curtain rises, to the final chorus of the tear-jerking Tell Me It’s Not True, this production of Willy Russell’s heartbreaking musical has the audience riveted.

It is a tale of twins separated at birth in a secret deal between two desperate women – desperate for completely opposite reasons – and becomes a case of nature versus nurture, and tragic coincidence.

The story is told by the Narrator, Mathew Craig, a sinister omnipresence, like a one-man Greek chorus, maintaining a sense of foreboding even when life takes a turn for the better for the two families at either end of the social scale.

Lyn Paul, one of the original New Seekers, presents a wonderfully empathetic and resilient character as she reprises her key role of Mrs Johnstone, an impoverished Liverpool mother of numerous children, deserted by her husband and hounded by debt collectors. Her acting skills are equal to her formidable vocal talent.

Willy Russell, of course, never lets sentimentality rule and robust Liverpool humour peppers the script.

The twins are played by Sean Jones as Mickey the kid from the slums, and Mark Hutchinson as Eddie, the recipient of a middle-class upbringing. Sean Jones is a joy playing the seven-year-old child (“I’m not, I’m nearly eight”) capering about the stage riding an imaginary horse and playing cowboys and Indians.

Mark Hutchinson is endearing as the ‘posh’ boy, intrigued by the colourful language and wild stories of Mickey and his siblings.

Both grow to manhood through their diverse routes in the course of the drama. Danielle Corlass also visibly matures as the love of both their lives, from child to teenager to adult.

Sarah Jane Buckley gives an edgy performance as Eddie’s over-anxious mother, and the rest of the ensemble cast worked their socks off.

It is a brilliant canvas of social comment or simply a powerful human story. Interpret it how you will. You cannot fail to be moved. Take the tissues.

Jo Bayne