The final ever UK tour of acclaimed author Helen Forrester’s captivating life story has opened to rave reviews – and it’s been a drama in itself getting the play to stage.
By The Waters Of Liverpool Autumn 2023 UK Tour opened in Liverpool last week. The tour will run for eight weeks visiting 13 venues across the country. New production images have also been released.
The tour will now visit The Lyceum in Crewe; Albany in Coventry; Waterside in Sale; Rhyl Pavilion; Hippodrome in Darlington; The Garrick in Lichfield; St Helens Theatre Royal; The Atkinson in Southport; Victoria in Halifax; and The Lowther in Lytham.
The final run of By The Waters Of Liverpool will conclude at The Floral Pavilion in New Brighton – just a few miles from where Helen Forrester was born in Wirral.
By The Waters Of Liverpool is a stunning period drama produced by the team who brought the smash-hit Twopence To Cross The Mersey to the stage.
The creative team are producers Rob Fennah and Lynn McDermott for Pulse Stage Productions and Bill Elms. The show is directed by Gareth Tudor Price and written by Rob Fennah.
It’s been a long time coming to get the play out on the road. Its inaugural tour was scheduled to run for 12 weeks across 17 venues in Spring 2020. After some years in the planning, the tour was abandoned after visiting only three theatres when the country was forced into a national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was also rescheduled twice when the pandemic failed to abate.
But before curtain up on this new and final tour, further challenges lay ahead for the team – including a life-saving operation and theatre closure.
Co-producer Lynn McDermott needed a kidney transplant. And it was writer and partner Rob Fennah who stepped in to be tested and was a close match. Lynn and Rob underwent the transplant less than six months ago in March 2023 – but were determined to get back to work on the tour as soon as possible, defiant with the message: “The show must go on.”
A short time later, tour opening venue The Epstein Theatre in Liverpool closed after funding was cut. So the team were tasked with finding a new venue with very little time. The Auditorium at M&S Bank Arena on the banks of the River Mersey stepped in to save the day and open the tour. The Gladstone in Port Sunlight on Wirral also played a key role by welcoming the play this week.
The team behind By The Waters Of Liverpool and the earlier stage productions of Twopence To Cross The Mersey – which premiered in Liverpool almost 30 years ago – have announced this will be the ‘final chapter’ of Helen’s story on stage. Making it the last chance for fans of Helen’s million-selling books to experience her story first-hand.
By The Waters Of Liverpool has sold more than a million books. It is set in the 1930s after Helen’s father went bankrupt during the Depression. Her family were forced to leave behind the nannies, servants and comfortable middle-class life in the South West of England. The Forrester’s chose Liverpool to rebuild their shattered lives. They were in for a terrible shock. Taken out of school to look after her young siblings, Helen is sick of being treated as an unpaid slave and begins a bitter fight with her parents for the right to go out to work and make her own way in life. But by 1939 and with Britain on the verge of war Helen, now aged 20, has still never been kissed by a man. But things start looking up for her when she meets a tall strong seaman and falls in love.
Coronation Street’s Tom Roberts will play John Forrester, Helen’s father; Emmerdale’s Joe Gill will play Harry O’Dwyer, Helen’s love interest; with Emma Mulligan in the lead role of Helen Forrester.
The line-up also features Lynn Francis, Daniel Taylor, Lynne Fitzgerald, Joe Owens, Samantha Alton, and Roy Carruthers.
The nine-strong cast play more than 50 characters between them – just Emma Mulligan portrays the one single character throughout as Helen Forrester.
Co-producer Bill Elms commented: “It’s been such a challenging journey for By The Waters Of Liverpool. But the tour has now opened, we have an incredibly talented cast, and the four-star reviews are flooding – we’re delighted to be back on the road.
“From pandemic lockdowns, a theatre closure, and Lynn and Rob’s extraordinary kidney transplant, it’s been a story in itself getting the play to stage and tour. This is the final ever opportunity for fans of Helen Forrester’s fascinating work to see her life story on stage
“By The Waters Of Liverpool is captivating – the story of a young woman struggling to live her life. The story is heartbreaking, heartwarming, it does have plenty of comedy moments thanks to the myriad of characters, but most of all there is so much hope and love. Something everyone needs.”
Writer and producer Rob Fennah enjoyed a long friendship with Helen Forrester since adapting her first book Twopence To Cross The Mersey in 1994. Helen travelled from her home in Edmonton, Canada, to see first-hand her story brought to life on stage.
Prior to author’s death in 2011, Rob and Helen often discussed the possibility of another play to conclude her life story. By The Waters Of Liverpool is the result of many conversations and numerous letters between the author and playwright and, as such, the show is packed with provenance.
Rob has remained friends with Helen’s son, Robert Bhatia, and this production is fully endorsed by the Helen Forrester Estate.
Robert Bhatia, said: “The partnership between playwright Rob Fennah and my mother Helen, and her legacy, has been outstanding.”
By The Waters Of Liverpool is an adaptation of Helen Forrester’s third autobiography and the final chapter of Helen’s life in Liverpool during the Great Depression. It also features sizeable chunks from Helen’s earlier book Liverpool Miss, flashbacks to Twopence To Cross The Mersey, along with a storyline from Helen’s fourth autobiography Lime Street At Two.
Helen’s literary achievements were further celebrated in 2020 to mark her 100th Birthday when an iconic Blue Plaque was unveiled at the Forrester family home in Hoylake on the Wirral, a place which featured heavily in her work.
Written by Rob Fennah · Directed by Gareth Tudor Price
Produced by Pulse Stage Productions and Bill Elms
Fully endorsed by the Helen Forrester Estate
BY THE WATERS OF LIVERPOOL
CREWE – LYCEUM
Monday 18 September – Tuesday 19 September 2023
COVENTRY – ALBANY THEATRE
Wednesday 20 September – Thursday 21 September 2023
SALE – WATERSIDE
Friday 22 September – Saturday 23 September 2023
RHYL – PAVILION
Tuesday 26 September – Wednesday 27 September 2023
DARLINGTON – HIPPODROME
Friday 29 September – Saturday 30 September 2023
LICHFIELD – GARRICK
Tuesday 3 October – Wednesday 4 October 2023
ST HELENS – THEATRE ROYAL
Monday 9 October – Wednesday 11 October 2023
SOUTHPORT– THE ATKINSON
Thursday 12 October – Saturday 14 October 2023
HALIFAX – VICTORIA THEATRE
Monday 16 October – Tuesday 17 October 2023
LYTHAM – LOWTHER PAVILION
Thursday 19 October – Saturday 21 October 2023
NEW BRIGHTON – FLORAL PAVILION
Tuesday 24 October – Sunday 29 October 2023
Photo credit: Anthony Robling