HumDrum’s 84 Charing Cross Road at The Spring

Peter Colley as Frank Doel and Jeanette Broad as Helene Hanff. Picture: Russell Blitz.
Peter Colley as Frank Doel and Jeanette Broad as Helene Hanff. Picture: Russell Blitz.
Portsmouth Players in rehearsal for The Full Monty

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Love stories tend to have a stereotypical plot – boy meets girl, boy and girl fall for each other and live happily ever after – but in Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road the protagonists aren’t even in love.

And that’s exactly why Caz Gilmore decided to direct HumDrum’s production of the play, which runs from Tuesday until Saturday at The Spring, Havant.

The play tells the true story of a 20-year correspondence between author Helene Hanff in New York and the manager of an antiquarian bookshop.

‘The correspondence started in a very businesslike manner,’ explains Caz, ‘but soon Hanff’s personality broke through and a relationship started to develop between her and Frank Doel who managed the shop and – eventually – the entire staff.

‘At the time this started, in the late 1940s, Britain was still subject to rationing. The States had never suffered from that, and Hanff sent food parcels and gifts over to the shop.

She adds: ‘That’s guaranteed to sway your affections when you’re living in a ration-restricted society.’

The cast stars Peter Colley, who won this year’s Best Actor Guide Award for his role in CCADS’ Calendar Girls, and Jeanette Broad, who won Best Actress in 2004 for her part in Misery, and also worked with Peter on that production.

Jeanette says: ‘The relationship written between Helene and Frank is brilliant and all the more affecting because the story is completely true. As an actor I think you feel a certain responsibility when playing real people.

‘You have to honour not just the author’s words but the real lives of the people involved. Here we’re lucky because we get to use the very words these people exchanged. The character-work is done for you before you begin the first rehearsal.’

Peter adds: ‘There’s not the ending that I think most people would want, but there is resolution at the end.’

Tickets: £8 to £9 from The Spring, Havant, on (023) 9247 2700 or go to