Review: 84 Charing Cross Road, written by Helen Hanff, adapted for the stage by James Roose-Evans, Cambridge Arts Theatre, to September 17

Stefanie Powers as Helene Hanff in 84 Charing Cross Road. Photo: Robert Day

Stefanie Powers as Helene Hanff in 84 Charing Cross Road. Photo: Robert Day - Credit: Archant

Charting the remarkable 20-year correspondence between a US writer and a British antiquarian bookseller, this is a lovely play and an excellent production.

Stefanie Powers as Helene Hanff and Clive Francis as Frank Doel in 84 Charing Cross Road. Photo: Rob

Stefanie Powers as Helene Hanff and Clive Francis as Frank Doel in 84 Charing Cross Road. Photo: Robert Day - Credit: Archant

Hanff, an eccentric and struggling New York writer, has a taste for some of the English language’s more obscure books. Frank Doel, of booksellers Marks and Co of 84, Charing Cross Road, London, is happy to find what she is looking for.

Their correspondence begins in 1949 and takes the audience through their developing friendship. It uncovers Hanff’s fascination with London, explores the challenges faced by the British in post-war austerity, exposes Hanff’s acerbic wit, her passion for books and her generous nature, as well as her literary interests.

Throughout the correspondence the play highlights the undeniable humour and the enchanting epistolary friendship of both principal characters.

Stefanie Powers, as Hanff, is at the height of her powers and is an absolute delight to watch with expertly executed monologues and great comic timing. Clive Francis as Doel is utterly professional, beautifully nuanced and gives a charming performance.


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A joy to watch with a strong supporting cast, this production is engaging, stimulating, entertaining and a real treat as the audience is taken on the journey of their freindship and Hanff’s late success as a writer.

As time goes on the play strikes an increasingly elegiac note as Hanff and Doel recognise the passing of time and the changing world around them.

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A charming story of a beautiful friendship.

JAMES MARSTON

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