84 Charing Cross Road
Venue : Redditch Palace Theatre
Date : May 1992
Genre : Play
Charming tale of a literary love affair
Helene Hanff’s 20 year love affair with English literature is lovingly portrayed in this delightful autobiographical tale.
The New York script writer, splendidly played by Angela Smith, spent over two decades writing to a London bookshop whose address provides the title.
Her search for classic English books, later turned into an autobiography, is entirely told in actual letters between Helene and the bookshop from 1949 to 1970.
Helene’s main correspondent, Frank Doel, is well played by Roger Warren.
Tony Collins, Evening Mail
Wythall Theatre Company has done it again with its production of 84 Charing Cross Road.
With a wonderful choice of play and perfect casting Helene Hanff’s tale of love across the Atlantic could do no wrong with an adoring audience at the Palace Theatre in Redditch.
Hot on the heels of farcical Sailor Beware this production has proved the company will turn their hands to anything.
Spanning more than twenty years of correspondence from New York to 84 Charing Cross Road is a love affair with literature, letters and London.
Young writer Helene can’t afford the second hand books she wants so much until an ad in a paper for a quaint bookshop in London. And with tears and laughter from start to finish this is a play anyone could sit through.
Credits must go to Angela Smith as Helene Hanff who managed to keep a realistic Jewish New York accent throughout.
And Roger Warren as Frank Doel – manager of Marks and Co bookshop – deserves a mention.
It’s a shame people in this town are not aware of the true professional productions being shown at the Palace.
Lisa Piddington, Redditch Advertiser
Come on, Support this Excellent Group
Well, where were you? I’ve been banging on about Wythall Theatre Company for ages. You know, how accomplished they are, how they work their little cotton socks off to give good value entertainment etc.
So they gave a bravura performance of 84 Charing Cross Road at the Palace Theatre and only 50 or so people bother to turn up. Sorry, Wythall, it must be something I said.
Anyway, in 1949 Frank Doel, the manager of an antiquarian bookshop in London receives a letter from a rather loud, brassy, New York writer. Could he send stuff she couldn’t get in America? At first her letters are a minor irritation. She sends American bank notes instead of money orders. She gives them rockets if they are slow or misinterpret her instructions.
Over the years, however, formalities are dropped and the letters and the other staff members of her erratic writing career, her successes and failures. (sic)
Her outspoken observations about the world lie side by side with philosophical whimsy and a deeply felt love of the English and their literature shines through. She sends food parcels during rationing and in turn they offer accommodation should she ever make the trip to England she dreams of. All in all a true, bitter sweet tale of friends who never actually meet.
Although rather wordy, and packed with literary references, this was heartwarming stuff done with realism half the stage a seedy New York apartment, the other a dusty, crusty bookshop.
Angela Smith as Helene never let her ‘broad’ accent slip for a second, and Roger Warren as Doel and the rest of the cast beetled along among the dusty tomes in an entirely believable fashion.
I wanted to stand up and shout BRAVO at the end. I had to be content with beating my hands to a bleeding pulp. Highly recommended.
David Whipp, Bromsgrove Advertiser and Messenger, 19 March 1992