WILLY Russell's brilliant Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth because their mother cannot afford to keep them, grow up worlds apart only to meet again with tragic consequences.

The story will be one that is familiar to many as the hit musical has been on the go for more than three decades, and its appeal does not show any signs of slowing down as it opened to a packed out Mayflower Theatre last night.

A poor mother already at financial breaking point with the number of children that she has to feed is forced into a pact to give away one of her newborn twins to a wealthy woman who cannot have children. It explores the harsh realities of the class divide as Mickey is brought up poverty-stricken in contrast to Edward, who enjoys a privileged lifestyle.

The boys grow up separately, unaware of their true identities, but are brought together again and a childhood friendship blossoms.

Over the years fate intertwines their lives on more than one occasion, and as they grow up their friendship is torn apart as their social situations force them down very different paths.

Blood Brothers has some of the most powerful and heartbreaking songs of any stage musical, accompanied by a live orchestra, and from the uplifting Bright New Day to the deep and emotional Tell Me It’s Not True, the soundtrack adds to the emotional rollercoaster of feelings that the audience finds itself on.

Lyn Paul is enthralling and emotional as she plays the desperate Mrs Johnstone struggling to do her best for her children, Matthew Craig is sinister as the Narrator, providing a constant and conscientious reminder that bills must always be paid and Mark Hutchinson as Eddie is strong and completely convincing – in fact the whole cast were simply stunning...

But Sean Jones as Mickey was just something else!

From the moment he ran on to the stage as his innocent and childlike younger self he was mesmerising, and his powerful performance was both raw and gripping as he captured his life spiralling more and more out of control.

"Did you ever hear the story of the Johnstone twins?"

Because if you haven't – you really must!

Catherine Collins