WHEN MARION McDonald, who plays the role of Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, sings Tell Me It's Not True at the end of this heart-breaking musical, it certainly makes you shed a few tears. Mrs Johnstone is a working mother living in Liverpool. Because she cannot afford to raise her twin sons, she gives one of them to her middle-class employer. The boys are later brought together by fate, and call each other blood brothers without knowing they are related. They somehow fall in love with the same woman, and the results are disastrous. Thanks to the wit and humour of the playwright, the tale of Blood Brothers is by no means a tragedy. The reason director Lindsey McAlister decided to bring it to the Hong Kong stage is because of its moving music and powerful story 'Blood Brothers is a popular but little-known musical,' says McAlister of the play that was postponed earlier in the year due to the Sars outbreak. 'When I first listened to the soundtrack, I just thought that I had to do the show.' Blood Brothers was written by Willy Russell. It first went on stage in 1983, and has had an overwhelming response around the world. To make it suitable for a Hong Kong audience, McAlister, who is also founder and director of the Hong Kong Youth Arts Festival, edited the two-act musical down to one act, which lasts only one-and-a-half hours. 'I was brutal with the script,' quips McAlister. 'I cut a lot of unnecessary dialogue and some slow bits, and kept the high energy moments. 'Hong Kong people are always on the move, so this version is best for them.' The set and costumes are also simple. Most of the cast will wear only white T-shirts and blue jeans, and the set design is plain. This is to help the audience focus on the performances. Aged between 17 and 57, the cast (pictured at a rehearsal) is made up of actors with different nationalities living in Hong Kong. Before rehearsals began in earnest, nine of the actors were sent to a dialect coach for accent training. 'Because the play is set in Liverpool, I wanted everyone to speak and sing with a Liverpool accent. Not many shows are this particular,' McAlister says. While the director and her cast are determined to put on the best show they can, they have had no support from government organisations as they are putting on an English play, which will appeal to a minority of people. 'The actors were all professional performers back home, but they cannot make a living as performing artists in Hong Kong. They are all doing this show for free - and it's a one-off,' says McAlister. It is difficult to keep talented artists in Hong Kong with the government's lack of support for local arts development. English actress Camilla Arnold, who plays Linda in Blood Brothers, says she is leaving Hong Kong to go to Sydney after three years of experiencing the local 'art' scene. 'I have been teaching children drama and singing, but it doesn't fulfil me as much as being a professional performer,' she says. Blood Brothers runs for four shows from June 20-22 at The Hong Kong Arts Centre's Shouson Theatre. Tickets priced at $180 and $150 are available at all HK Ticketing outlets. Call 3128 8288 for tickets. For programme inquiries, call 2511 6192.