Elms and Fennah have done a remarkable job indeed, with this latest adaptation of the world-famous Twopence to Cross the Mersey, based on the childhood life of Helen Forrester. Although the set is minimalistic – two chairs, doorways and a table – the props used and the costume designs are enough to bring this play to life. The soundtrack, mostly the crying of seagulls or the sound of the river, is atmospheric and helps create that image of the Depression in Liverpool, the desolation of the Forrester family and the hopelessness felt by Helen.
Although the set design and the staging are fantastic, unfortunately the acting of the central figures – the Forrester family – fell slightly too short for me. The actor’s hearts are certainly in it, but it felt as if they were still speaking from the script in parts and gave me cause to wonder whether three weeks of rehearsals were really enough for such a long-standing part of Liverpool’s literary history. Although Lovelady and Davies were charming to watch as Helen and Alan Forrester, Eithne Brown was easily the best actress on stage last night. As the only one on stage who had been in the original play, Brown carried a vitality into her roles which made the entire audience laugh out loud and provided much needed comic humour in one of the more depressing plays I’ve been to see.
Although this is an autobiographical play, I still felt that the ending of the play was almost too good to be true, with Helen’s achievement of sorting out her own life ahead of her family’s mistreatment of her. As a result I, personally, was disappointed with the ending of Twopence to Cross the Mersey. The local community had an absolutely fantastic response, with a standing ovation from perhaps half the audience. Perhaps, then, one needs to be a Liverpudlian to truly appreciate an otherwise remarkable piece of theatre.