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By the Waters of Liverpool | The Auditorium - M&S Bank Arena

Helen Forrester’s autobiographical account of her family’s struggles before and during the Second World War is brought to life at The Auditorium, Liverpool.

The plot of By the Waters of Liverpool centres around Helen in her late teens and early twenties - Emma Mulligan stars. Her performance is impressive given the scale of the part, though I found some of her choices a little inauthentic leaving me rarely connected enough to feel empathy for her character’s situation. I found Emma’s over-annunciation of her lines quite off-putting, though I fear this will have been a choice forced upon her by the vastness of the venue, which I will come onto shortly.

The supporting cast of eight do a decent job of creating the remainder of the characters, all multi-rolling at some point during the show. However, the directorial choice to caricature the vast majority of these was frustrating, particularly those characters with a Scouse accent which seemed to be utilised only for cheap laughs rather than to highlight the genuine, jovial, ‘sound’ community that should be at the very heart of this story.

This is a piece of theatre that clearly suffers from playing in too large a venue. The story deserves a more intimate setting which would allow the audience to feel engaged rather than distanced. This also heavily impacted on the Sound Designer’s ability to do what I’m sure they would have liked to do, which should have been a natural and clean audio. There were unforgivable sound design issues for a professional touring play. Microphones were left on or came live too early, opportunities to have sound come directly from the performance space were missed and far too often the audience were treated to heavy breathing from the cast.

Solid lighting design complemented a small, functional set in creating various locations all to good effect. Choreographed, cast-led scene changes are a firm favourite and really helped to move the story along. A stand-out moment comes at the end of the first act where the audience are treated to a technical feast for the eyes and ears.

This was press night, the first night of the run so certain things can be forgiven. The tour continues through September and October and I’m really pleased to see some more intimate venues on the itinerary as this is a show with real heart that I feel has the potential to thrive under the right conditions.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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