Reviewed by Jan Mellor
As a Liverpudlian anything about the history of my beloved city is always close to my heart. As I entered the theatre the back drop of the infamous Liver Bird building had my heart a flutter and I felt nostalgic from the onset.
Helen (played superbly throughout by Maria Lovelady) explained the scenario in 1930’s Liverpool and how waiting under the clock at Lime Street station for friends/loved ones was a local tradition. Helen talked us through her life and we were introduced to her family – her strict mother (played by the talented Emma Dears), her empathetic father (played by TV favourite Mark Moraghan), her brother Alan (the superb Nathan McMullen) and her sister Fiona (the sublime Emily Hughes). The dialogue led us through Helen’s impoverished life of life ‘on credit’, pawnbrokers, hand-me-downs, lodgers and the ongoing tough existence of the late 1930’s. We watched as Helen had her first job interview and how she (against her parent’s orders) took her first paid job as a typist, how she visited her grandmother across the Mersey, how she was rejected/ignored at the work dance and we see the impact on everyone as war is declared in 1939.
In Act 2 Helen and her father are taken to the police station for her involvement with a German pen pal and again Helen is subjected to hardship. The event is however changed as she meets a sailor Nick with whom she falls madly in love. Nick however returns to war and Helen frustrated and alone suffers a practical breakdown – to the dismay of her parents and sister. Helen from this ‘picks herself up’ takes dancing lessons and on Nick’s return finds love and friendship to bring light into her days. The love and light are short lived however, as her love is killed in war in 1940. The play ends as all stand below the clock at Lime Street Station to rapturous applause.
The acting throughout this play was superb by all the cast. I was especially thrilled to see both Emily Hughes and Nathan McMullen on the stage at the Empire as I had seen them both previously at the Everyman Theatre and they are both wonderful actors. I felt that Helen’s insight into war-torn Liverpool and the strife of the families at this time were portrayed brilliantly. My own parents were born in 1933 in Liverpool and so a lot that was depicted in Helen’s story rang very true to me. I felt that at times the ‘story-telling narration’ felt as though we were watching a radio programme, and this could have been reduced/abridged somewhat. The bringing of a Helen Forrester’s book to stage (especially in her native Liverpool) was delivered very well, the audience loved it and Liverpool should be very proud.
An impressive performance. Nostalgic brilliance.
Tickets cost from £12 to £37 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
By The Waters Of Liverpool is at the Liverpool Empire from 3-13 October 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/liverpool or call the box office on 0844 8713017.
Liverpool Empire Theatre, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017