AS LYN Paul approaches playing mother-of-new-born-twins Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers for the last time at the age of 70 this autumn, she has an admission to make.

The one-time New Seekers singer first took the role in Willy Russell’s musical in 1997. “I wish I’d kept count of the number of performances, but you never think you’re going to have such a long association with a show,” says Lyn, who is starring at Hull New Theatre this week (October 22 to 26) and returns to the Grand Opera House, York, from Monday to Saturday next week.

“It all started with my mother’s suggestion that I should write to [producer and impresario] Bill Kenwright, so if she hadn’t kept on at me, it would never have happened.”

Instead, Lyn can say: "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's such a privilege to be able to play Mrs Johnstone one final time."

Blessed with such songs as A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged Tell Me It’s Not True, Blood Brothers' epic tale of Liverpool life revolves around the moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret.

Lyn, who comes from a large family from Wythenshawe, south Manchester, recalls Kenwright’s advice when she first signed up for the role of the beleaguered mother. “Bill said ‘just be yourself; you’re a typical northern mum. Don’t worry about the Liverpool accent’,” she says.

“Blood Brothers is a musical that’s gone all over the world regardless of it being written in Liverpool, though they do try to get as many Liverpool actors in the show as possible, and this touring cast is the most Liverpool yet.”

Lyn has starred as Fraulein Schneide in the UK tour of Cabaret in 2013 and appeared in Boy George’s musical Taboo and Footloose, The Musical, but she keeps returning to Mrs Johnstone, whether on numerous tours or for the final West End performances at the Phoenix Theatre, London, in 2012.

She had, however, decided to call time on Blood Brothers last year. “I contacted Bill last May to say that I didn’t want to do it any more, not because I didn’t love it, but because of my age, but Bill said ‘I don’t think you should finish like that. I want you to do it one more time. I don’t want it to peter out; that would break my heart’,” recalls Lyn.

And so she has been on the road once more since August 5 in the latest tour, directed by Kenwright and Bob Tomson. “The audiences have been amazing to me. I think it’s because they know I’m going, but our resident director, Tim Churchill, who plays Mr Lyons, made a good point about my age not being important.

“He said, your opening line to the song ‘Marilyn Monroe’ is ‘once I had a husband’, so you’re talking about the past’.”

Lyn will make the most of each performance over the weeks ahead, including her return to the Grand Opera House, where she played Mrs Johnstone previously in November 2016.

“I’m going to relish every night of it, and I’ll miss it because Bill has been wonderful to me. Whenever I’ve asked if I could have another spell in the show, he always said ‘yes’.”

Lyn had first risen to fame in the early 1970s in The New Seekers, being the featured vocalist on their 1972 Eurovision Song Contest entry Beg, Steal Or Borrow and lead vocalist on the 1974 chart topper You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me.

“Obviously your voice changes over the years; you sing differently to when you were young or you were 40. You can’t reach the same notes, so you just sing the melody,” she says.

“Somebody said to me, ‘you might not be able to hit the notes you once did, but feeling and experience helps you sing now and age makes it different’, even if it’s disappointing to me that I can’t sing like I once did.

“The voice is lower now, but these songs are all about the emotions, so it suits them.”

Mrs Johnstone has made a deep impact on audiences and Lyn alike. “I think she has an inner strength but vulnerability too that everyone can relate to. She’s a mother; she’s struggled,” she says.

“I’ve struggled in my life at times too. I’ve been broke… many years ago when I wasn’t working and I didn’t know if work would come in, or when my son had chicken pox and I thought he might die and I didn’t know what to do.

“But the good thing is that when all these negative things happen to you, you can bring that to the role.”

Lyn believes she was destined to play Mrs Johnstone, recalling when she would sing Tell Me It’s Not True to herself and breaking into tears. Not surprisingly, she places the role above all others.

“Oh my god, yes, by a mile,” she says. “There’s no doubt about it, and it always will be because it’s given me a brand new career for 22 years now. I relate to her completely; I’ve had that kind of life. She’s my favourite role, my best role.”

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Charles Hutchinson