Emma Mulligan as the central figure of Helen.  Picture: Anthony Robling

By The Waters of Liverpool

Lichfield Garrick


By the Waters of Liverpool, is primarily based on the third classic story from Helen Forrester's autobiography, of her growing up in poverty-stricken Liverpool during the 1930s.

Playwright Rob Fennah worked closely with Helen Forrester to ensure that her memories, the characters and the representation of her former years were captured with accuracy and authenticity.

Although at times it’s understandably wrapped in a theatrical gloss, it still depicts a moving story of her teenage years, the social impact of the Second World War and her personal struggle to find her own independence.

The story is told in a part dramatic and narrative approach and as its spans a considerable time, this style enables the broad areas of her life to be accessed quickly, stopping when greater dramatic detail is needed.

Emma Mulligan plays the central figure of Helen, undertaking a large percentage of the play herself. Overlooked in a seemingly careless household, Helen is seen as nothing more than a household servant. In a bid to find her place and a voice, Helen eventually finds the courage to oppose them. It’s a role that calls for a great deal of tenacity and skill switching from narrator of her own life, into the moments of frustration, anger and deep sorrow and was handled with great skill.

It was good to see local actor Tom Roberts who takes a break from his TV roles return to the stage as Helens father. He plays a man who has lost his fortune and struggling to keep control of the Forrester Household, whilst dispensing a stern and disapproving attitude of his entire family.

The production is finely tuned by Director Gareth Tudor Price and calls upon the entire cast to create the many other characters in Helens life.


Tom Roberts as Helen's father with his daughter.

Samantha Alton, morphed from Helen’s favoured sister, into the bitchy Miss Finch who takes no pity on her during Helen’s first workday. Conjuring a lot of the onstage comedy was Lynne Fitzgerald, again showing great range with various incarnations from the austere Deaconess to the broad Scouser hairdresser Betty. This especially was a fun scene that was joined by Lynne Francis who also played the mother, but here adopted her finest scouser accent to great comical effect. 

As the young Helen succeeds in building her career, she eventually finds her romantic escape at a dance parlour run by Norm played beautifully by Daniel Taylor, who again takes on several other roles. It’s there she finally meets Harry, played sweetly by Joe Gill, the kind gentle man who finally wins Helens heart. Mr Gill amongst others appears as a troublesome cockney spiv, and her pen pal German airman.

It’s somewhat predictable what will happen to this fledging romance as the horror of the blitz and the war takes hold upon the country and the story ends in a poignant but reflective light.

With additional support from Emmerdale regular, Joe Gill and Daniel Taylor together with Roy Carruthers all playing a variety of characters, this is a great ensemble piece of theatre. The entire production is well developed and features solid performances from this skilled cast,  bringing this tale of war time hardship beautifully to life. The waters flow to Wednesday, 4 October.

Jeff Grant


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