Humor Magazine

84 Charing Cross Road: Dir. James Roose-Evans

By Davidduff

Blessings be upon the 'saintly' head of James Roose-Evans who is, apparently, a priest as well as a theater director.  He deserves a place in heaven for restoring my faith in theater following the inept production of Arcadia about which I have been moaning and groaning on this blog for the last few days.  By brilliant contrast, Mr. Roose-Evans' production of 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is simply superb.  This is theater at its very best.  You can tell that the director and his team, especially the actors, have worked together so that every move, every gesture, every bit of business, is just so natural and so right.  This is a play in which two actors dominate and yet there are five others to play the small roles.  Very easy for them to take it easy!  But not a bit of it, they all maintained their high levels of energy and concentration.  The two leads, Janie Dee and Clive Francis are absolute pros to their fingertips and their performances are terrific.  Without make-up changes, Clive Francis in particular seems to age before our eyes simply by his skill in acting.

The play is, or seems to be, a very slight piece, based as it is on the real-life correspondence between Miss Hanff, a 'Noo Yawk' resident struggling to earn a living as a writer, and Frank Doel, the manager of antiquarian bookshop in the Charing Cross Road in the years following WWII.  Through letters alone these two, and in the end the entire staff of the shop, build up a deep relationship.  Gently but inexorably the play moves to its sad conclusion and despite its absence of histrionics it is intensely moving.  Twice I was close to tears.

If this production comes anywhere near you, beg, borrow, steal or murder for a ticket!


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