Depression-era drama brings Mersey beat to Ashcroft Theatre

Depression drama: Twopence To Cross The Mersey is set in 1930s Liverpool

The first national tour of Helen Forrester’s Twopence To Cross The Mersey is coming to Croydon’s Fairfield Halls next month.

The new touring production of Twopence To Cross The Mersey is produced by Rob Fennah and Lynn McDermott and directed by Gareth Tudor Price.

Forrester – born June Huband on the Wirral in 1919 – was the eldest of seven children of what have been described as “inept, socialite, middle-class parents who lived on credit”.

Many of her books are about her up-bringing and life on Merseyside during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and after her father went bankrupt, seeing them evicted from their comfortable family home and forced to live in a single room in Liverpool. Aged 12, as the eldest child, Forrester was kept out of school to look after her brothers and sister.

Millions of people are familiar with Helen Forrester’s life story which is told through her best-selling volumes of autobiography, Twopence To Cross The Mersey, Liverpool Miss, By The Waters Of Liverpool and Lime Street At Two. A Blue Plaque was unveiled in 2020 at the late author’s family home in Hoylake on the Wirral, a place which features heavily in her work.

“Helen has fans worldwide, and this way we can take Helen’s story a little closer to them,” said Fennah.

Ensemble performance: the nine members of the cast play around 40 characters in the stage play Twopence To Cross The Mersey

“Helen was inspiring, with so much strength, resilience and determination, a pioneer of her time.

“Her story is one which needs to be told to young and old alike. It’s a very special experience for everyone involved – we’re all custodians of her incredibly honest writing that everyone can relate to, especially given today’s difficult economic climate.”

Fennah has updated his stage adaptation of Twopence To Cross The Mersey for the touring production. Fennah enjoyed a long friendship with Forrester. He adapted the book into a stage musical in 1994, which was premiered at the Liverpool Empire Theatre. Forrester travelled from her home in Edmonton, Canada, to see her story brought to life on stage.

Fennah later went on to develop Twopence into a straight stage play which premiered in Liverpool in 2015, before touring England’s North West in 2016.

Forrester died in Edmonton in 2011, aged 92.

The nine-strong cast coming to Fairfield Halls play more than 40 characters. “We’re overjoyed that we’re opened the tour of Twopence To Cross The Mersey, it’s been well worth the wait,” Fennah said.

“We have been delighted with the audience and press reactions to the show so far, we have a wonderful cast to tell Helen’s fascinating story.”

Stage presence: the touring production of Twopence has attracted glowing reviews. Photos: Anthony Robling

Mark Moraghan will play John Forrester (Helen’s father). Mark previously played Father in the 2007 and 2009 adaptations of Twopence To Cross The Mersey, and reprised the role in the follow-up stage drama of Forrester’s book By The Waters Of Liverpool. He is best known for his roles in Holby City, Coronation Street and Brookside.

Daniel Taylor plays Mr Ferris and is also part of the Ensemble. He is an award-winning actor, producer and director, and was most recently seen on stage in Blood Brothers. He appeared at the Liverpool Theatre Festival 2020 in his show The Very Best Of Tommy Cooper, and returned the following year in Something About George – The George Harrison Story.

Parry Glasspool will play Helen’s brother Alan. He is best known for playing Harry Thompson in Hollyoaks. He was born and raised in the Midlands, before moving to London to study for his BA Hons in Acting for Stage and Media at the University of West London.

After an open call for auditions to find Helen, Jenny Murphy was awarded the role. Jenny wowed the panel and now joins the touring production. Her theatre credits include Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice, Merry Wives of Windsor, The Jungle Book, Cilla – The Musical, Julius Caesar, The Little Match Girl and The Decameron.

Lynn Francis (Helen’s mother Celia), Roy Carruthers (Ensemble), and Chloe McDonald (Ensemble) all return having appeared in previous stage productions of Helen Forrester books.

Lynne Fitzgerald (Mrs Foster) and Robert Hudson (Ensemble) complete the cast.

Twopence To Cross The Mersey is at the Ashcroft Theatre at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls on Monday October 17 and Tuesday October 18, when there is a matinee as well as an evening performance. Click here for ticket bookings.

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