Willy Russell’s “Blood Brothers” was originally developed as school play, and in it he uses the story of twin boys, separated at birth, for his dramatic analysis of the effects of inequality in income and education. His own childhood in Liverpool failed to offer him the opportunities his talent deserved, and it was only through his own efforts that he became one of Britain’s most popular playwrights. “Educating Rita” and “Shirley Valentine” show his terrific ability to write for women, and in “Blood Brothers” the women are fully rounded characters, whose dialogue leaps off the page.

Encore Theatre Company’s production of “Blood Brothers”, which many people know as a musical is performed as a play at the Arts Centre. As we enter the theatre the open stage reveals two strongly contrasting front rooms, one with nappies and mould on the walls, the other regency stripes and gilt-edged china on the dresser; the scene is set for a play about contracting fortunes.

When the darkly compelling Dewi Lambert as narrator opens the play we are asked to judge the “terrible sin” of separating the boys at birth. But our sympathies are all with the “Mother” as she is known, beautifully portrayed by Lois Glasspool, from her poignant opening song “Marilyn Monroe”, to her heartbreaking cry at the end. Mrs Lyons, her employer at the beginning of the play, is powerfully drawn by Louisa Hardy, the author of her own tragedy, as she plants the seed of fear that the boys will die if they know they are brothers; she then falls into a vortex of misery as fate repeatedly throws they boys into each others company.

Eddie and Mickey, vividly played by real life twins, Matt and Harry Lockett, brilliantly capture the boy’s development from seven year olds to adults; one a factory worker, the other the factory owner. Harry has a wonderfully written monologue where he skillfully shows us the reality of a young lad’s inner life, and Matt eloquently reveals Eddie’s development from hero-worshipping his rascally brother through rebellious feelings towards his over protective mother to his desire to help his childhood friend who is experiencing the poverty and lack of opportunity of Thatcher’s Britain. The brothers are extremely impressive, their pace and clarity in performance drives the play towards in tragic conclusion. As they reach adulthood the tragedy is heightened as they fall for the same girl, Linda, beautifully played by Tamlin Morgan, at first a tomboy, then coltish 14 year old who grows to be a more confident young woman and finally a feisty young mum, each stage delicately and sensitively drawn.

The play offers small parts of a Milkman, a wonderful cameo played by Chris Denne, a Policewoman played with a knowing understanding of the force by Rebecca Hilton, and four children, which are seized with energy and humour by Paul Taylor, Maya Pieris, Barry Irvine and Helena Malekin.

With the Narrator’s final lines ringing in our ears the Bridport audience burst into tumultuous applause, some standing to show their appreciation, for all the different cast members and the hardworking backstage crew. The directors, John Haylock and Emma Bachelor, must be congratulated for their tightly paced direction, imaginative use of music and lighting and command of the unfolding of this passionate tragedy.