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Playwright and Co-Producer

                         Rob Fennah talks about his friendship
                                with author Helen Forrester

      How did you first meet Helen?
      My background is in pop music and during the late-80s I was given a book called Twopence
      To Cross The Mersey to read while I was waiting to go into a radio interview. In the book Hel-
      en referred to her father, a man who had lost his fortune during the Great Depression, as a
      ‘butterfly in the rain’, a beautiful image that inspired me to write a song of the same title for
      an album I was working on. Helen got to hear the track, really liked it, and asked if she could
      use it when promoting her books around the world.

      How did you collaborate artistically?
      First and foremost, we got on. There was a picture taken on the day we met; it’s a lovely pho-
      tograph and says everything about the friendship that was to follow. Once we’d got to know
      each other, I asked if I could have a go at adapting her book, Twopence To Cross The Mersey,
      into a stage play. She agreed, but on the strict understanding she had final approval. ‘After
      all Rob’, she reminded me, ‘this is my life!’ During the writing process she would tell me a lot
      more about the characters in her books and this really helped me bring them to life on stage. I
      still have a pile of faxes and letters from her describing these people in great detail, and some
      drawings too. We had a lot of fun doing it. Helen flew from her Canada home to attend the
      première of ‘Twopence’ at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool. She loved it.  Although Helen is no
      longer with us, she is always in my thoughts. While I’m working on the stage adaptations I im-
      agine her looking over my shoulder, just to check all the little details are correct and in order.
      It’s a real privilege to be entrusted with her most famous works, but also a huge responsibility.

      How did you adapt such a big book like ‘By The Waters Of Liverpool’ for stage?
      It wasn’t easy as the stage play, By The Waters Of Liverpool, also features sizeable chunks
      from her earlier book, Liverpool Miss, together with flashbacks to Twopence To Cross The
      Mersey. I’ve even weaved in a storyline from Helen’s fourth autobiography, Lime Street At
      Two.  That way, those unfamiliar with Helen’s work will still get a ‘complete’ picture of her
      life. To make all this possible we use a technique called ‘story theatre’ whereby the actors
      form part of the landscape itself and take on multiple roles; over fifty different characters. It’s
      a fluid and very theatrical way of presenting such an epic tale and has proved to be a huge
      hit with our audiences.

                 ‘The partnership between Rob Fennah

                  and my mother Helen, and her legacy,
                            has been outstanding’

                            Robert Bhatia  (Broadway World)
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