A lifestyle blog all about Birmingham, UK.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

REVIEW: 84 Charing Cross Road, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

It is ironic that I picked up 84 Charing Cross Road in a little bookshop. I remember sitting in the shop, which was full of every single book you could possibly imagine, reading the first few pages and instantly buying it for a tiny 85p.

Since then, I have read it time and time again, and have fallen more in love with the totally charming story every time. So I was over the moon to finally see the stage adaptation at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. 

The stage adaptation of Helene Hanff's classic novel 84 Charing Cross Road is a truly heartwarming story that follows a transatlantic friendship between New York writer Helene and Frank, a London bookseller.

The production, just like the book, follows the letters written between the two. Starting with Helene asking for incredibly specific books, the letters soon become about the two's totally different lives, and learning everything there is to know about each other. Other bookshop workers soon start writing to the infamous Helene too, eager to find out more about each other.
The play is based on the extraordinary true story of the remarkable relationship that developed over 20 years, which shows a snapshot of Britain from the post-war 1940’s to the swinging 60’s. From discussing every book you can imagine, through to holidays and careers; Helene and Frank could easily pass each other in the street, but they bond in such a remarkable way that its hard not to hope throughout the play that they will finally get the chance to meet.

85 Charing Cross Road has a stellar cast. There are only several actors on stage, but those taking on the two main roles are acting royalty. Taking on the role of sweet and charming Frank Doel is Clive Richards and making the role of the strong independent woman Helene Hanff her own is the incredible Stefanie Powers, known for various roles on Broadway and her best known iconic role opposite Robert Wagner in Hart to Hart. 

The set was the favourite part of the production for me. Split into two sections, one side was Helene's cluttered work space in her New York apartment. The other half was the London bookshop itself, and the letters sent to each other were read out loud, allowing the audience to see the correspondent's reactions to each section of the letter, which gave the production a whole new depth and the set really helped make the play such a success. 

The set made me glow with happiness, as it took me right back to the bookshop where I indeed purchased my copy of 84 Charing Cross Road all those years ago.
For me, there has always been something so endearing and romantic about writing letters to each other. In a world where we can now contact someone the other side of the world and have a reply on our screens within seconds, it made me long to go back to a time where writing letters were such a necessity in life. 

For me, the production was absolutely everything I wanted it to be. It was the most charming play I have ever seen, and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for the whole show. The small sections of music in the play also brought something totally new to a story I already know well, and I really appreciated the different touches in the production that helped bring the story from the pages of the book to the stage. 

84 Charing Cross Road is on stage at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday, June 2nd. 

Rating: 9/10

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