THE adaptation of Hoylake-born Helen Forrester's much-loved books has always attracted a wide-age group audience since the characters based on real people first came to life in the theatre back in 1994.

There have been 12 Helens since then.

The stage play written by Rob Fennah and directed by Gareth Tudor Price is now on its final outing - taking in many Northern UK dates along the way.

It was due to open at the now-closed Epstein but the M and S Auditorium is a fine venue with first-rate acoustics.

The last show there is September 6 then moving on to the Gladstone from 12 to 14 and closing in October at the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton.

The production will play from Litchfield to Lytham, too and Southport to St Helens.

It is a drama that clearly travels well.

The 1930s Liverpool set - designed by Foxton - ably creates the nostalgia of Lime Street station and it's iconic clock.

There are few scene changes as Helen's sparse home converts into a busy office, homely dance studio and waterfront walkway.

Using the 'story theatre' device - where characters part-narrate - the two and half hour production (including interval) is well-paced.

Having seen this play and its predecessor since 1994, this production is certainly one of the strongest adaptations.

We see a family at war (and at war with themselves).

The central character of Helen - played by a very assured Emma Mulligan - has to tread many dramatic paths from sheer frustration to emotional breakdown and sporadic happiness.

We see Helen cope with her selfish middle-class parents who returned to Liverpool after their business fatally suffered from the global economic crash.

This was a bad move all around.

But there lies the theme of this Scouse survival story.

The parents father (Tom Roberts) and mother (Lynn Francis ) lost their own moral compass along the way.

But there is humour amid the bleakness notably from Daniel Taylor and Lynne Fitzgerald in a variety of cameos.

Dance duo Doris and Norm are delightfully Dickensian.

The first half is dark indeed but after the break, the romance between Helen and seaman Harry (Joe Gill) is beautifully handled by everyone involved.

We all want Helen to have some luck and love.

It is a strong cast that conveys joy and sadness in equal measure.

This play is an uplifting account of how one ordinary Merseyside girl fought to keep her dreams alive and inspired so many in the process.

Verdict: A tough and tender tale - Four stars

The production is on tour until October

Tickets and details from the website