Sophie Arthur

‘I’ll Meet You Under The Clock At Lime Street Station’: Review of ‘By The Waters of Liverpool’

‘By the Waters of Liverpool’ is the recent sequel to ‘Twopence To Cross The Mersey’ based on the books of Helen Forrester. In her books Helen recalls what it was like to grow up in Liverpool around the time of the second world war and the struggles and fights she had to endure in order to gain the ‘privilege’ of an education and the ability to work as an equal with her brother. ‘By the Waters’ combines Helen’s second and third books, ‘Liverpool Miss’ and ‘By the Waters of Liverpool’ and they are lovingly adapted by Helen’s long-standing friend, Rob Fennah, who brings Helen’s world to life on the Empire stage. This sequel covers the time in which Helen (played by Maria Lovelady) fights to get her first job and meets her first love, Harry (played by Danny O’Brien) during the war years.

Maria Lovelady’s performance as Helen was honest and real, played with a wonderful warmth of character, particularly special for a woman she never met. She embodied everything you would expect Helen to be – determined, articulate, sweet and intelligent – in her posture, her speech and her relationships. While, as Lovelady herself notes, everyone may have their own idea of Helen, who she was and what she was like, mine will forever be intrinsically linked with Maria’s beautiful portrayal of the very real, very warm woman whose strength has inspired millions.

The relationships that were created on the stage were so genuine and authentic with touching moments between Helen and her father (Mark Moraghan) and Helen with her grandmother (Lynn Francis) reminding us all that family is ‘something infinitely precious’ and encapsulates the feeling of wanting to ‘wrap them up in cotton wool’ and ‘wishing they would live forever’.

Each relationship between Helen and the other characters felt so different and personal, and the love and affection between Helen and Harry (Danny O’Brien) rivalled the best love stories, being better for being so real. The portrayal showed a warmth and affection for local stories, passed down through the generations as the characters share the words, ‘I’ll see you under the clock at Lime Street Station’.

Director, Gareth Tudor Price, created a narrative that doesn’t shy away from the horror and emotion that surrounded those years and forced the audience to re-think their idea of ‘those good old days’ and yet showed all of this with a care and appreciation for the past and the people who were involved. From the moment you walk in to take your seat, you are surrounded by music and sounds from the period and the sets and props are so beautifully done, helping the whole world come to life before your eyes. The thought and care that has gone into the performances by everyone involved to create such an atmosphere was plain to see.

The cast’s ability to switch between the Irish, Liverpudlian, European and Southern accents of the time was flawless as they flowed from one character to the next, seemingly with ease takes an overwhelming amount of talent and hard work. Meanwhile, smaller characters provided a light-hearted comedy, such as Miss Finch (Emily Hughes) whose impeccable Scouse accent and humour was met with overwhelming warmth from a local audience to Helen’s dance teachers (Lynn Francis and Eric Potts) who created the perfect tonic to the drama and emotion being played out around them as the audience took them to their hearts.

The cast and creatives should be so proud of this world they created and the stories they brought to life. It was an honour to see such a moving production and many of the audience around me were left with tears in their eyes, wanting to meet their own loved ones ‘under the clock at Lime Street Station’.

The production as a whole reminds us that love – no matter what it’s form – as friends, family or lovers, is more powerful and beautiful than the darkest of times. So next time you walk past the clock in Lime Street Station ‘think of the ghosts who’ve met there over the years and whose memories will live on as mothers, sisters, fathers, grandfathers, lovers and friends.’

‘By The Waters of Liverpool’ is on at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday 13th October 2018.

‘Twopence To Cross The Mersey’ will be returning to the Liverpool Empire from Tuesday 11th – Saturday 15th June 2019.

All tickets can be booked here: https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/liverpool-empire/

Photo Credits and Feature Image: Anthony Robling

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