Helen Forrester’s beloved sequel ‘By The Waters of Liverpool’ returns for final run

The final chapter of Helen’s early life will hit the stage when the long-awaited sequel ‘By The Waters Of Liverpool’ opens at the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton for the very last time.

Helen Forrester has written four volumes of million-selling autobiography together with a clutch of best-selling novels.

Over the years there have been twelve ‘Helens’ played by; Eithne Brown, Leanne Campbell, Barbara Thorne, Liz Robertson, Jamie Clarke, Eleanor Bron, Pauline Daniels, Emma Grace Errands, Maria Lovelady, Lucy Dixon, Jenny Murphy, and finally, Emma Mulligan who will take the lead role for the very last time in this autumn’s UK tour of By The Waters Of Liverpool.

The journey began in 1992 when a chance meeting between an elderly tweed-clad author and a young leather-jacketed pop musician led to one of the most successful home-grown theatre productions since Blood Brothers.

So began a collaboration and friendship that was to last until the author’s death in 2011.

Wirral musician and playwright, Rob Fennah commented, “Meeting Helen back in 1992 was sheer fluke. I’d read her first book, Twopence To Cross The Mersey, and nicked a line from it where she describes her bankrupt father as ‘a butterfly; it’s wings beaten useless by the rain’.

“The Liverpool Echo got to hear about the song (as Rick Wakeman had played piano on it) and my band, Alternative Radio, was then asked to perform ‘Butterfly In The Rain’ for Helen while she was visiting Liverpool for a local charity event. We did it; she really liked it, and asked if she could use the song when giving interviews to promote her books.

“Of course I said yes, and then cheekily asked if I could try my hand at adapting Twopence into a stage show?

“Two years later, after many meetings, letters, faxes and telephone calls to her home in Canada, she finally approved the script. Helen and members of her family attended the sell-out première of Twopence To Cross The Mersey at the Liverpool Empire in April 1994.

“Despite our age difference we had a lot in common, got on extremely well and became good friends. After the success of Twopence, we talked a lot about doing this sequel so I know she’d be very pleased to see it finally hit the stage.

“She was very much ‘hands on’ when it came to these adaptations, always checking in with me to see that all the little details were correct. After all Rob, she’d often remind me, ‘This is my life!’”.

By The Waters Of Liverpool had, in fact, embarked on a 17-theatre UK tour in March 2020 but was cut short after just three theatres when Covid-19 struck and a national lockdown was enforced. A rescheduled tour for 2021 was again abandoned when the virus failed to abate.

Co-producer Bill Elms said, “This show has been a long time coming and I’m amazed we’ve managed to get it on at all. Losing the tour in 2020 due to Covid was bad enough, but back in June this year we also lost the Epstein Theatre, the venue By The Waters Of Liverpool was scheduled to open in!”

Co-Producer Lynn McDermott added, “It’s fitting that this final Helen Forrester show takes place on the Wirral, just a few miles down the road from Helen’s family home in Hoylake. It’s a beautiful theatre space and with our multi-talented cast of 9 playing over 50 different characters it’s definitely one for the diary.”

Rob added, Although By The Waters Of Liverpool is technically a sequel, I’ve made sure it features sizeable chunks from Helen’s earlier book Liverpool Miss, together with flashback to Twopence To Cross the Mersey.

“I’ve even weaved in a storyline from Helen’s fourth autobiography, Lime Street At Two. That way, those unfamiliar with Helen’s work, still get a ‘complete’ picture of her life.

“People don’t get to see big period dramas on stage anymore, they are too expensive to produce, so I would encourage people who want to see a big show, and those who’ve seen Twopence over the last 30 years, to come to the Floral and see this final chapter of her life in Liverpool unfold on stage for the very last time.

“This production of By The Waters has received mostly 4 and 5 star reviews so I know people will not be disappointed, particularly all those who love Helen’s books.”

Helen’s son, Robert Bhatia, concluded, “The partnership between playwright Rob Fennah and my mother Helen, and her legacy, has been outstanding.”

Helen Forrester’s ‘By The Waters Of Liverpool’ opens for the last time at the Floral Pavilion Theatre New Brighton 24 – 29 October for eight performances only.

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