Richmond Theatre – until Saturday 16th June 2018
Reviewed by Lisa Harlow
This is a revival of the play adapted from the book of the same name. The lead character Helene Hanff, played by Stefanie Powers, was herself a script writer. It was not until she documented her true life 20 year relationship between herself, based in New York, and the staff of an antiquated second-hand bookshop in London after the Second World War, that she found the success she had sought with her script writing.
Clive Francis, as the bookshop’s Frank Doel, smoothly delivers his role with charm and poise throughout. Stefanie Powers holds court as the engaging and, at times, acerbic and gravelly voiced Hanff. The setting remains in place throughout with the passing of time portrayed through musical seasonal celebrations of the supporting cast.
In all, it truly is the essence of the word ‘quaint’. It conjures up a time of deep restraint and modesty, where instant gratification was not possible and delight remained in anticipation and eventual receipt. Hanff discovers an advert for the store in a paper, and her search for a range of literature classics from across the ocean begins in earnest. The beauty of corresponding in the old fashioned form of letter writing is gently held aloft and the appreciation for the topic and memories was evident from the audience.
For myself, the pace and content was too leisurely to truly hold the depth of my attention for most of the first Act. By the second, the turn of events and growing bitter sweetness began to capture my heart. It seems that the phrase ‘time flies’ remains applicable in any era, and experiencing the familiar story of allowing life events to overtake spoken hopes, dreams and promises is guaranteed to tug on the heartstrings. A gently enjoyable show.