Writer: Helen Forrester
Adaptor: Rob Fennah
Director: Gareth Tudor Price
There is something profound about watching the sun set over the Mersey River as you make your way into the M&S Bank Arena – Auditorium to watch Helen Forrester’s By the Waters of Liverpool. The waters of Liverpool have a deep history with millions of stories resting in the cobbles of the dock. By the Waters of Liverpool is Helen Forrester’s second instalment of her many stories of early 20th-century Liverpool.
Originally to be performed in Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre, due to the theatre’s closure, the venue had been changed to the grand M&S Bank Arena – Auditorium. Though no better venue could have been chosen for this production as it stands on the bank of Liverpool’s famous waterfront, the nostalgia and intimacy of the Epstein Theatre is surely missed (sadly not the producer’s fault due to the closing of the venue earlier this year.)
Emphasizing the rise of Fascism in the UK as well as the underlying support of Socialism in Liverpool, the historical accuracy adds depth to the tale which is a testament to the show’s adaptor, Rob Fennah.
Set during the outbreak of World War Two, we find our protagonist Helen Forrester played by Emma Mulligan stuck in the same gruelling reality of being working class in Liverpool during the Great Depression. Mulligan gives a beautiful performance, depicting every emotion with grace and empathy. She takes you on a journey of how Helen has grown up since Twopence and how she is finding herself as a young lady.
The ensemble bring so many lovely comedic moments and characterisations, in an otherwise melancholy play. Lynne Fitzgerald and Lynn Francis as Freda and Betty steal the show with their relatable humour – everybody knows a Freda or a Betty. – plenty of familiar faces return to this sequel alongside the aforementioned Daniel Taylor and Roy Carruthers reprising their roles from the earlier instalment of the tale.
Set design is reminiscent, if not exactly the same as Twopence to Cross the Mersey which brings the audience back to a familiar place along with familiar faces. Lighting and sound creates perfect atmospheres for the production; romantic ambience in Norm and Doris’s ballroom and impending doom during the air raid of Liverpool are of particular highlight.
Overall, By the Waters of Liverpool brings great nostalgia and romanticism of a by-gone era, lovingly crafted with care by all involved. The brilliant cast bring to life the highs and lows of the 1930s/40s with laughs and heartache. This is a must-see show if you crave that injection of nostalgia or appreciate the hard work of a (mostly) Liverpudlian cast. Although the Albert Dock is sea-level, this production ends on a cliffhanger!
Runs Until 29 October 2023, in various venues.