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Blood Brothers at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury review

Blood Brothers is a powerful and emotional tale of friendship, love and class.

Willy Russell's musical tells the story of twins separated at birth, one brought up poor, the other rich.

Although they become good friends, this social divide leads to an inevitable rift.

Mickey and Eddie (although different actors played at the Marlowe)
Mickey and Eddie (although different actors played at the Marlowe)

The mother, Mrs Johnstone, kicked off the performance, belting out Marilyn Monroe.

She had a strong, clear voice but with soft, raspy undertones.

Her character was totally believable from the start and I really felt for her.

With seven hungry mouths to feed and her husband walking out, she still had such get-up-and-go and an unconditional love for her family.

As I flicked through the programme later, I was shocked to discover Lyn Paul, who plays Mrs Johnstone, is 70. If I'm that sprightly at that age I'll be over the moon.

Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone
Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone

She has played the role for several stints since 1997 and her true understanding of the character shows.

The children were played by adults, a sort of reverse Bugsy Malone if you will.

Galloping around the stage, spitting and swearing, with ripped shorts and smothered in dirt - this childish freedom was almost accentuated by the fact adults were playing them.

When the twins, Mickey and Eddie, played by Alex Patmore and Joel Benedict, first met aged seven, the innocence of their bond was very touching.

Both were fantastic, but I think I warmed to Mickey a little more.

The final scene of Blood Brothers
The final scene of Blood Brothers

Along with his thick Scouse accent and boyish swagger, Patmore also managed to evoke a real sense of vulnerability.

The play slowly twisted and turned into darkness, with Eddie's adoptive mother forever looming.

The strong, deep voice of the narrator, stood in the backdrop in a black suit, built up the impending doom even more so.

Despite this, Russell still managed to weave in spatters of comedy.

Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

In the final scene, when Mickey ran through the crowd and pulled a gun on Eddie, I was frozen.

Several policemen were poised as their mother revealed the truth at last - that they were brothers - and Mickey screams "Why didn't you give me away, why couldn't I have been him" - I was very close to tears.

Before I knew it, the triggers were pulled and the intense last track, Tell Me It's Not True, began.

The whole cast gathered on stage, with the mother knelt between her two boys. As she sang, she cried, and the crowd cried too.

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