The musical play tells of Helen Forrester growing up in the great 30s depression, her once comfortable family being brought to their knees by lack of work, and her father, once a big noise in the City deciding to bring his wife and seven children to Liverpool where his mother lived across the Mersey in Wirral.
But instead of finding work, all he found was labour exchange queues and despair.
The set is first the sweep of Lime Street station, including period posters advertising Zubes, Sunlight Soap, and Rinso, but with clever props and lighting soon doubles as the inside of shabby rooms where the family sleep top to toe amongst the bedbugs.
Mrs Forrester (Emma Vaudrey) finds it difficult to adjust from fine living and nannies, and would rather buy new stockings than get her daughter Helen's coat out of the pawnshop. It’s clear from the start that her's and her husband's priorities are not what matters - the bare essentials - for he would rather buy another packet of cigarettes than a bar of soap.
Helen, the oldest child has to give up school to help look after her new baby brother, something she rails against, but her mother needs to seek work and anyway cannot manage on her own.
Eventually Helen, with advice from an elderly man she meets in the park, realises she must fight to survive, not to give up, and joins a night class to improve her chances of making it in the big wide world.
Comedienne Pauline Daniels shines as the older Helen, now a successful author, who plays the part of narrator, and often steps in to duo with her younger self beautifully played by Emma Grace Arends. Brookside actor Mark Moraghan also demonstrates a fine singing voice in his role as Mr Forrester.
The musical is an adaptation by Rob Fennah from Helen Forrester's best selling autobiography first premiered at the Empire in 1994.
The show includes many worthy tunes by Rob and Alan Fennah but none are memorable. The words are telling, and imaginative, but are often lost in the loudness of the background accompaniment from a band that plays behind the see-through scenery. If the show goes on tour, and there are plans to do so, sound technicians need to tweak this to improve the balance.
However, although a popular musical, this show, directed by Ian Kellgren lacks drama.
There are a few laughs in this production, which help, but it needs many more as a counterpoint to the drudgery and down-at-heel despair of the 1930s. But, no doubt, local audiences will enjoy a local tale of one successful authoress who made good, and escaped the bad times to marry a professor, immigrating to Canada where she still lives.
- Jeanette Smith