A STAGE play based on the sequel to Wirral author Helen Forrester's autobiographical novel 'Twopence To Cross The Mersey will premiere next month.

Wirral-born Rob Fennah, who wrote the stage adaptation of Helen Forrester's best-seller first as a musical and then a straight stage play, was given the blessing of her family to take on another of her books, By The Waters Of Liverpool, which will be staged at the Liverpool Empire from October 3–13.

The cast of 10 features Maria Lovelady, Emma Dears, Mark Moraghan, Eric Potts, Stephanie Dooley, Lynn Francis, Roy Carruthers, Daniel O’Brien, Emily Hughes and Nathan McMullen.

More than 170,000 people have seen Twopence To Cross The Mersey and now the long-awaited sequel visits the theatre where it all began for the original musical at the Liverpool Empire.

By the age of 17, Helen had fought and won two bitter battles with her parents – the first to educate herself, the second for the right to go out to work.

Her parents are as financially irresponsible as ever, wasting money while their children still lack adequate food and clothing.

But for Helen, things are looking up as she begins to make new friends and develop some social life outside the home.

By The Waters Of Liverpool will take the audience to the next chapter in Helen’s life.

It's now 1939, Britain is on the brink of war, Helen is now aged 20 and has never been kissed by a man. That is until she meets a tall, strong seaman. And falls in love.

Helen Forrester's son, Robert Bhatia, travelled from his home in Canada to see the first performance of the play last year at the Epstein Theatre.

During its launch at the Masonic Hall in Hope Street, Liverpool this afternoon, former Hoylake resident Rob Fennah told the Globe: “Why are we staging the show at the Liverpool Empire, you may ask?

"Well, my friendship with Helen Forrester began in the early '90s when she came to the Empire to see the first incarnation of ‘Twopence to Cross The Mersey.

“We remained friends for the last 10 years of her life and Helen entrusted me to do all this sort of stuff, which is great.

“Since she passed away, her son Robert and his family have been over to see new stage adaptation of Tuppence, which again was a big hit. We had 26,000 people come to see it.

“This new production has a taken a couple of years to put together.

“We’ve got a brilliant creative team and a fantastic cast of 10 people playing 60 characters, it’s a big, big show.

“It’s got the full endorsement of Helen’s son, Robert. It has to, otherwise it’s not worth doing.

"In fact, Rob’s sent a really lovely message to the cast, which is pinned up in the rehearsal room.”

Helen Forrester was born June Huband, in Hoylake, in 1919, the eldest of seven children of socialite middle-class parents who lived on credit.

When her father was made bankrupt during the Great Depression, the large family was thrown into poverty.

Evicted from their comfortable home in an English market town and with nothing more than the clothes they stood up in, they took the train to Liverpool, where they hoped to rebuild their lives.

Twopence to Cross the Mersey tells that story.

The book was the first of an autobiographical trilogy that includes Liverpool Miss and By The Waters Of Liverpool.

Rob Fennah continued: "By The Waters of Liverpool is the third in a series of novels, and people may think they’ll need to read the second book before they see the play.

“They won’t have too, because I have used some of the second book, Liverpool Miss, in the current Twopence play and use other parts of that book it in the new production.

"All three books have sold over a million copies, so I’m sure the new show will be equally successful.

"Everyone who sees Twopence wants to know what happened to Helen and By The Waters of Liverpool answers that question.

"It takes you right up to when she was in her 20s and living through the war.

"It's a totally different show to Twopence.

"Helen is an adult and this part of her story is really powerful and moving."

During the course of his work on the musical version of Twopence, Rob built up a relationship with Hoylake-born Helen, who was very much involved in the project. She died, aged 92, in Canada in 2011.

She would often send Rob faxes and letters of encouragement together with all sorts of additional information that didn't appear in her books.

Recalling his friendship with Helen, Rob said: “Helen’s grandmother lived in Warren Road, Hoylake. I went to Hoylake Parade school and used to deliver newspapers as boy in Warren Road.

“It’s funny because the last time I saw Helen, she was promoting one of her books.

“We met at the King's Gap Hotel in Hoylake and I asked where her grandmother lived. She said ‘I’ll show you’.

"So, we put our cups down walked me round the corner to what was the family home in Warren Road. I remembered it because it was a house I used to deliver papers to as a kid.

"It was quite a poignant moment for me, although I didn’t know it at the time, that this would be her last visit to the UK.

“I was the last person she was with when she last set eyes on her grandmother’s home.”

The show’s director, Gareth Tudor-Price, said: “It’s a great piece of story-telling theatre and it’s a fantastic story.

“This takes us from 1936 to the outbreak of the Second World War and into the initial war years.

“Within the play, between certain scene changes, we have certain recorded news items of the day, so to speak; Neville Chamberlain taking over from Stanley Baldwin, Chamberlain saying ‘there will be peace in our time’ and then, of course Chamberlain’s radio announcement that ‘Britain is at war with Germany’.

“It also give people a historical context as well as the bigger social context, obviously, with what the Forrester family experience in Liverpool during those latter 1930s years.

“Rob Fennah is very much committed to Helen’s life story and this comes through in the adaptation.”

Tickets for the show are from the box office on 0844 871 3017

For more details visit www.bythewatersofliverpool.com