Review: Twopence to Cross the Mersey at The Epstein Theatre

Posted on 12 March 2015
By Chris High
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Having wowed audiences as a musical, Alternative Radio and Budgie vocalist, musician, songwriter and author Rob Fennah has decided to tell Twopence to Cross the Mersey – the story of the young, impoverished and later-to-be- best selling author, Helen Forrester – in a more nostalgia imbued – yet ultimately winning – format that will have audiences hooked from first to last.

Twopence is a story of hardship brought about by circumstances that many today can empathise with: The Wall Street Crash of 1929, only back in the days of The Great Depression it was those who worked in the financial sector who, arguably, felt the crushing squeeze of unemployment every bit as badly as those of less advantageous backgrounds.

This is the nub of the story and, thanks largely to some ever fine direction by Bob Eaton, the ensemble cast deliver enough turmoil, angst, emotion and downright hope to drench even the thickest of mansize tissues.

As Miss Sinford – and a host of other characters – Eithne Browne displays the kind of talent that this city is known for in spades. Emotionally exquisite and comedically superb, Browne manages to bring more than a little sunshine to what otherwise might prove to be a bit of a dour evening.

As the neurotic, selfishly hypochondriac Mrs Forrester, Emma Dears shows once more – following her much acclaimed, self-penned musical, Judy & Liza – that hers is a career to follow closely. That Twopence this time around is not the musical version is something of a shame given Dears’ vocal prowess, but rest assured that despite this, hers remains a performance to savour.

Superb too as Mr Forrester, the weak, feeble and often wrongly blamed father, Christopher Jordan returns to Liverpool following his recent run at The Royal Court Theatre in Noises Off. Very much a different role on this occasion, Jordan nails the feeling of loss, confusion and desperation superbly and so provides a depth and understanding to the piece as a whole magnificently well.

With Roy Carruthers, Brian Dodd and Jake Abraham playing more peripheral, but nonetheless important roles, the audience can rest easily in the knowledge that a deep rooted professionalism will prevail and thereby tell a tale of warning mixed with optimism that will help even the most cynical through tough times.

However as good as this fine array of actors are, it is left to two of the newcomers in Maria Lovelady as the much put-upon Helen and Daniel Davies as her brother, Alan – and a brief spot as a swaggering milkman – that truly catches the eye.

Never exaggerated and always in control, Lovelady shows that she has ability to burn and if this performance is anything to go by, a career that will hopefully see her return again and again to Liverpool’s many theatres.

Twopence to Cross the Mersey may well be being played out in a slightly different way, but it remains a strong, evocative and poignant theatrical experience guaranteed to have you calling out for more by its end.

Twopence to Cross the Mersey: The Stage Play
The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
March 10 – March 28, 2015 (then touring)
Author: Rob Fennah (from Helen Forrester)
Director: Bob Eaton
Producer: Bill Elms Associates
Cast: Maria Lovelady, Eithne Browne, Roy Carruthers, Emma Dears, Christopher Jordan, Brian Dodd, Jake Abraham, Daniel Davies.
Running Time: 2 hrs
PR Rating: **** Emotional Stuff

Tour:
Southport Theatre & Convention Centre: April 9 – 11
St. Helens Theatre Royal: April 14 – 16
New Brighton Floral Pavilion: April 19 – 23