Twopence To Cross The Mersey, Theatre Review. Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

Cast: Maria Lovelady, Eithne Browne, Christopher Jordan, Emma Dears, Jake Abraham, Tom Cawte, Roy Carruthers, Phil Hearne.

The taste of 1930s Britain so elegantly captured in Helen Forrester’s Twopence To Cross The Mersey is arguably more palpable, more authentic than any text book that might go on at length to describe the after effects of the Great Depression on those caught in its wake and the sacrifice many individuals had to face just to survive; it is genuine, touching, brutal and one that still pervades the modern era and the way its shapes politics today.

Whilst the story is rightly seen as the life and times of Helen Forrester, it is those around her that make the story real, the hypocrisy of her mother as she comes to view the young Helen as nothing but a skivvy, the maiden aunt in waiting and who seems completely oblivious to the mental cruelty she is placing her in, the kind old gentleman who Helen befriends and inspires her to go to night school, the random act of kindness by the policeman and the saving of her life as the only way out becomes the steps to the ultimate sacrifice; all these were captured with superb and unrelenting style.

To take on the part of Mrs. Forrester takes one skilled enough to handle the rising, seething anger one feels from the audience, the generation to whom the bitterness of the hangover of the insincere Victorian era always meant that parents were right, even when they most certainly being wicked and immoral, is a task many would shy away from but Emma Dears puts in such a performance that she dominates the stage and builds up the tension perfectly.

Twopence To Cross The Mersey is a play that that should be viewed by all as obligatory, an observation of life not just in Liverpool during one of the worst periods of modern history, but as what happens when society breaks down, when a far off course and unsettling Government can do a city when they believe their precious Westminster is troubled. It is in this social mess, the deprivation, the hunger, the starving, the destitute, that ordinary people can be drawn into seeking alternative ways of leadership in the charismatic and far from savoury; one state of affairs leading hastily and terrifyingly into another and it is a warning that must be heeded.

With a production that was on the ball, fantastically paced, beautifully realised and with a cast that truly gives the words and thinking of the time serious and careful respect, Twopence To Cross The Mersey is a master of storytelling, one steeped in its own terrible but ultimately uplifting history; a triumph of locally told theatre upon the biggest stage.

Ian D. Hall