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Helen Forrester's Mersey beat turns up a new look



A new stage production of Helen Forrester’s autobiographical novel Twopence To Cross The Mersey will embark on its first UK national tour this autumn.

The show's premiere will be on September 6 at the New Brighton Floral Pavilion in Wirral, after which it will tour to 13 venues to mid-November, visiting Rhyl, Stockport, Crewe, St Helens, Blackpool, Warrington, Darlington, Halifax, Croydon, Coventry, Bolton, and Southport, before closing in Liverpool. The cast is yet to be announced.

The young Helen Forrester, depicted in a previous production of the show
The young Helen Forrester, depicted in a previous production of the show

Twopence To Cross The Mersey is a period drama set in the early 1930s; Helen's bankrupt, spendthrift father causes the family to leave servants and a middle-class home in the south west behind with little more than the clothes on their back. The family of nine takes the train to Liverpool to rebuild, but the father's ineptitude takes them to a city whose bustling opportunities of his youth have long-since disappeared.

Millions around the world know Forrester’s story through her best-selling volumes of autobiography, Twopence to Cross the Mersey, Liverpool Miss, By the Waters of Liverpool, and Lime Street at Two.

Helen’s literary achievements were celebrated in 2020 when a blue plaque in her memory was unveiled at the author’s family home in Hoylake – a place that featured heavily in her work.

The new show follows the company's 2020 attempt to stage Twopence's sister show By the Waters of Liverpool - which closed due to the pandemic lockdown after only a fortnight.

Helen Forrester in 1995
Helen Forrester in 1995

Playwright and producer Rob Fennah took the opportunity to rework the existing Twopence script, adding new scenes and freshening others, which is why the production is now labelled "new". The production includes stories from Liverpool Miss, offering a useful portrait of the young Forrester's story.

Before Forrester died, she and Fennah shared extensive corres-pondence and conversations about her story, and the show contains episodes that didn't make it into her books.

Co-producer Bill Elms said: "Theatregoers who saw earlier versions can look forward to the new production and set. We’ll be announcing the cast very soon."

The tour will be followed by a new tour of By the Waters of Liverpool next spring.