Published: 09:47, 25 August 2019
| Updated: 16:40, 29 August 2019
The legendary Willy Russell musical Blood Brothers is returning, refreshed and coming to Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre, and is at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford later this year. Star Lyn Paul is back as Mrs Johnstone for a final time. Here she tells us what the show means to her
You can’t call yourself a die-hard theatre fan if you haven’t seen Blood Brothers.
The legendary Willy Russell musical, which comes to Canterbury this week and Dartford in the autumn, tells the moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret.
When Mrs Johnstone, a young mother, is deserted by her husband and left to her own devices to provide for seven hungry children she takes a job as a housekeeper in order to make ends meet. It is not long before her brittle world crashes around her when she discovers herself to be pregnant again – this time with twins. In a moment of weakness and desperation, she enters a secret pact with her employer which leads to the show’s shattering climax.
A sensational cast, storyline and show-stopping music, combine to make Blood Brothers an enthralling night of entertainment. This tour sees Lyn Paul return to the role of Mrs Johnstone, after playing her from 1997 until 2000, then again in 2008... and in 2012 for the final two weeks of its West End run. Lyn started her career back with the New seekers, singing the now world famous song, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.
She said: “Mrs J is just me. Everything that she’s going through I feel, the way Willy’s (Russell) written it is so easy to get over to an audience as it’s actually written as you would speak. Sometimes, when people write a script, you look at it and think, “well, that’s not how I would say it”. But this is so perfectly written and so easy, it just flows, and I just feel that Mrs J is me, so it makes it very easy to play.
“When I first played Mrs J, I was doing cabaret and he took me away from all that. I wrote to Bill and asked him if he would consider me for the role of Mrs J, he sent me a letter back by return post, and less than three weeks later I was waiting on the stage at the Phoenix Theatre (West End) to start rehearsals and I cannot tell you what it did to me. I’d never acted and I thought, “oh my god, I can’t do this!” But Bill showed so much faith in me that I will always go back. He’s only got to click his fingers and I’ll be straight in, no problem.”
“Touring with Blood Brothers is like one big family. In all the years I’ve been doing it, it always has been, everyone does everything together and so I would tell them to embrace it, enjoy it and let’s get the camaraderie going that we’ve always had. I’ve had a very charmed career but Blood Brothers has to be the highlight. Not necessarily because of the show, but because of what it led to. Bill took me on just on faith because once I went into Blood Brothers with Bill, he introduced me to my agent, who then put me into Emmerdale.
“But Mrs J in Blood Brothers is such an iconic role to play, so although it might sound as though I’m crawling here, it’s changed my life.”
“I am beyond thrilled to be returning to Blood Brothers in this iconic role. I’m honoured to have been given the opportunity to undertake this ‘farewell tour’ by my good friend, Bill Kenwright. It is such a privilege to be able to play Mrs Johnstone one final time. It is like greeting an old friend, absolutely – but terrifying at the same time.”
The moving show barely has a dry eye in the house at its final curtain call, and fans’ love for it has touched Lyn over the years.
“I got a letter once from a woman who had a son who was in jail, and she said she sat watching it and it was the only time she’d ever seen anybody portray on stage a jail sequence that is exactly as it is. And she said she cried and cried. Everyone’s gone through highs and lows and a lot of what Mrs J’s gone through.”
The show is at the Marlowe Theatre from Tuesday, August 27 to Saturday, August 31, and then at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, from Tuesday, November 19 to Saturday, November 23.
Read our review here.