MELANCHOLY memories of the outbreak of the Second World War Liverpool are the emotional backdrop to this latest adaptation of a much-loved literary collection.

I once wrote a piece about Hoylake-born Helen Forrester's first novel.

She wrote to me - via air mail - from her home in Canada stressing it was, in fact, an autobiography not a novel.

Musician Rob Fennah became friends with her until her death in 2011.

She knew he was the right man to take her words to the stage.

Twopence to Cross the Mersey was a massive success in its home town and on tours.

So, for those who wanted to know what happened next, here is the theatrical sequel ... well, sequels, actually.

By 17 Helen had fought and ongoing domestic battles with her financially irresponsible parents who selfishly spent the house-keeping on anything but necessities.

Her education suffered and employment chances were slim but she fought back.

She was a survivor.

In this latest drama we see her in her 20s – up to this point she had never been kissed by a man and then one sails into her life.

Rob has used a chunk of the follow-up Liverpool Miss and the rest from the third book By the Waters of Liverpool.

There are also flashbacks to the original so that newcomers can follow the plot.

Some of the cast members return to their roles as the nerve-frayed Forrester family.

Maria Lovelady has grown up with real confidence in the role of Helen.

Emma Dears has made the role of the selfish mother her own and popular star Mark Moraghan as the father plays a man who lost his self worth in the infamous stock market crash.

Coronation Street and Dr Who star Eric Potts plays a chirpy ARP man and other people from Helen's life.

I would like to have seen more comedy elements from talented Eric, who immediately connected with the audience.

A hairdressing sequence also has great potential for more Liverpool humour.

After all, laughter has always been the city's armour.

Incidental music lifts the overriding sombre mood.

Director Gareth Tudor Price has the characters take turns to narrate the story.

A strong team of ten play 60 characters in a two-and-a-half-hour piece of theatre that has its heart in the right place.

The smashing set design by Richard Foxton is reminiscent of the famous Blood Brothers skyline.

Here Lime Street – so important to Helen - stands out.

This non sugar-coated, unsentimental journey down memory lane is, however, an uneven production – an imbalance between light and shade.

That said, Forrester fans will be happy to see the figures they have come to love with all their hopes and dreams come alive again on stage.

Three Stars - A Bitter Sweet Love Story.

The production is at the Empire until this Saturday, October 13.

Tickets from the box office on 08448713017.