Endearing, uplifting and utterly charming. There are many reasons why 84 Charing Cross Road has enchanted its audience ever since the loveable tale was first released as a novel in 1970.
Featured image credit: Richard Hubert Smith
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In a world that revolves around emails, text messages and various other forms of technology, it’s easy to forget the significance and personality that lies behind that of a handwritten letter.
Gone are the days of having a pen pal in secondary school, or slipping love letters and notes to your crush, but 84 Charing Cross Road does more than enough to pull even a young audience into the beauty behind correspondence sent by postal service.
Based on a true story between a passionate New York scriptwriter, Helene Hanff (Stefanie Powers) and London-based bookseller, Frank Doel (Clive Francis), who form a heart-warming relationship over the space of 20 years through their witty correspondence, it’s a classic tale, but one that doesn’t fail to impress through both the performances of it lead roles and superb supporting cast.
Broadway legend Stefanie Powers delivers an excellent performance as the gin and book-loving Helene Hanff. Packed with charisma and absolutely nailing the signature New York accent, Powers is simply perfect in taking on the role of a powerful woman and writer with a beautiful and kind heart.
She brings out the best in charming bookseller Frank, who spends his days working in Marks & Co. sending out multiple books to Helene along with his letters that ooze that of an Englishman following from the end of the Second World War right through to the Swinging 60s. Clive Francis is brilliant as the ever-so-polite Frank, resulting in both him and Powers bouncing back and forth in beautiful harmony.
The supporting cast too is equally a credit to this slick and humorous production, sprinkling witty one-liners here and there, until they too begin to spark up their own relationships with Helene.
The set has been cleverly designed to split between both the neat and tidy bookshop and Helene’s cluttered New York apartment, scattered with bits of crumpled paper, endless books and empty bottles of gin. But the design is what allows this play to flow so beautifully, it’s impossible not to lose track of the story and become encased in the lives of those involved.
The true beauty of this production is just how powerful it actually is; despite that fact that writing and sending handwritten letters are now sadly, very much a thing of the past, there’s something about 84 Charing Cross Road that’s still completely relatable, and I suppose that’s why it continues to be such a success both in print and on stage.
84 Charing Cross Road runs at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday, June 2. Get your tickets here.