Powerful and immersive… By The Waters Of Liverpool brings the 1930s vividly to life

Helen Forrester’s autobiographical bestseller is now on stage at the Liverpool Empire and follows on from her earlier instalment,Twopence to Cross the Mersey. Review by Rose Newton

By The Waters Of Liverpool
Helen Forrester’s By The Waters Of Liverpool is on at the Liverpool Empire


Liverpool is a city often accused of being too backward-looking – a tendency to wallow in the past. It is a largely unfair charge. Anyone who has seen the city’s transformation over the past decade or so can only marvel at our talent for reinvention.

However, Liverpool is a city with history of both dark and light and we love to immerse ourselves in the fascinating tales of lives past.

Best sellers

It is no surprise, then, that Helen Forrester’s Twopence to Cross the Mersey, the story of the impoverishment of her wealthy family in Liverpool in the years between the two World Wars, struck such a chord with so many.

The bestselling novel became a hit stage show and musical, written by Rob Fennah, and has already been seen by more than 170,000 people. It’s sequel, By The Waters Of Liverpool, was itself a best-seller and has now also reached the stage.

Written again by Rob Fennah, and with the full support of the family of Helen Forrester, who died in 2011, By The Waters Of Liverpool has opened at the Liverpool Empire and runs until Saturday, October 13.

Bitter battles

The latest instalment of the story begins with Helen aged 17. Having fought, and won, two bitter battles with her parents – the first to educate herself, the second for the right to go out to work, she begins to make new friends and develop a social life outside her home.

In 1939, now aged 20 and with Britain on the brink of war, Helen has never been kissed by a man. That is until she meets a tall, strong seaman, and falls in love.

Such was the success of Twopence, there is the inevitable fear its sequel would not live up to expectations. Those fears are dispelled quickly as the cast transports us back to 1930s with authentic and emotional performances.

Maria Lovelady again takes on the role of Helen, a part she delivered so brilliantly in the original show and, once again, excels as the story’s main protagonist with a powerful, immersive performance.

Multiple roles

The strong cast, which also includes Mark Moraghan, Eric Potts and Emma Dears, demonstrates its versatility with each of the actors performing multiple roles. Special mention must go to Emma Dears who, as Helen’s mother, delivers a performance which almost has the audience hissing at the bitterness of her character.

By The Waters Of Liverpool is a stunning adaptation and a triumph for Rob Fennah, producer Pulse Records in association with Bill Elms, and director Gareth Tudor Price. Devotees of Helen Forrester, and those new to the story, will not be disappointed.

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