84 Charing Cross Road – Review

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of seeing the Hunters Hill Theatre production of '84 Charing Cross Road' at Club Ryde. This production is the first time HHT have performed in their new venue, a quaint space with great acoustics and a snazzy lighting rig.

I walked in knowing nothing of James Roose-Evens play, '84 Charing Cross Road' and walked out enchanted by the story. The tale follows American writer Helene Hanff who is in search of obscure classics and British literature and writes to a little book shop in London requesting some titles. The play is a back and forth between Hanff in New York and the Marks and Co staff at 84 Charing Cross Road London, with antiquarian bookseller Frank Doel being the primary contact. I was charmed to find out that '84 Charing Cross Road' is based on a true story. In 1970 Helene Hanff published a novel of the same name chronicling her 20-year correspondence with Doel and the other staff at the London book store.

Taking the lead as Helene Hanff is Liz Grindley, she portrays the brazen author with ease and style. Her accent is impeccable; I can't imagine the actress without the distinctive, classic New York sound. Opposite her is Ross Alexander as Frank Doel, who is well cast in the role as the British bookseller. Alexander plays Doel as reserved and mild, which reads as quintessentially British and contrasts Grindley nicely. Kimberlea Smith is very sweet as Cecily Far, one of Doel's co-workers. And rounding out the cast is Suzan Mozell, who covers two roles. She is adorable as Megan Wells Doel's other co-worker but shines as Maxine, a fabulous, socialite, American actress and friend of Hanff's.

Director Maggie Scott described the play as a 'Love Affair' between Hanff and the bookshop, all its staff and London, which is so wholesome. I felt like they prioritised fun in the direction of the show, and I appreciate that. I was smiling the minute the show started; Grindley won me over immediately as she welcomed me into the world. During Act One, I felt moments when the comedic timing seemed rushed, but I was pleased to see this was not the case after intermission.  Act two was joyous; Grindley came back on stage and found a rhythm that better honoured the playwright's hilarious script and won big laughs from the audience.

Wayne Chee made magic happen with the set and lighting. The stage was split down the middle, one side Hanff's New York apartment the other the Marks and Co bookstore in London, both sides were distinct yet stood side by side in harmony. The attention to detail was beyond reproach. I really appreciated the subtle difference in light between New York and London. All the books in the show were covered in white which was an excellent creative choice. Props were handled by Coralie Fraser, who I assume was responsible for the tedious task of covering all the books. Penelope Korths was the costume designer and covered two decades with only two outfits per character. The classic, well-tailored ensembles they chose worked brilliantly and told me so much about each character as soon as the actor stepped on stage.

I enjoyed my time at 84 Charing Cross Road; it was such a treat watching a relationship slowly develop between Hanff and the book store staff. My favourite part was finding out that Hanff at one point wrote fictional murders for television; we love TV shows about murder here at Dark Stories! Hunters Hill Theatre's  '84 Charing Cross Road' is a delightful true story with an ending that made me tear up!

You won't be travelling to London or New York anytime soon, so treat yourself and do both in one trip to the theatre! 84 Charing Cross Road plays at Club Ryde till July 4th with performances Friday night, Saturday matinee, Saturday night and Sunday matinee.

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A Return to Normalcy

2020 AD has undoubtedly been a tough year, and we all could do with a little escapism.

Having faced down the threat of a pandemic - it's time to to get back out there and enjoy some good old fashioned entertainment.

This is where Dark Stories comes in. Aside from running regular Crime Tours, we like to dabble in the occasional theatre production.

To help return life to something akin to normal, we've dusted off one of our favourite shows. Yes, we're dipping our toes in the water, and we're going to run a series of one night only shows in those towns in which our crime tours operate:- Maitland, Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle.

So without further ado; to help you take your mind off the troubles of the world, we invite you to join us and learn How To Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.

For one night only in Sydney, Newcastle and Maitland in October; let us find out how much you have learnt during the pandemic and up your game to the next level of expertise. After all, a plague is one thing, but what if the next pandemic comes with zombies. You need to know what to do.

To facilitate your survival, the first thing you must do is book into this show. With social distance seating, many litres of hand sanitiser, and several bottles of Vitamin C tablets, you will be well-stocked to get through the night unscathed.

Register your interest to attend on the Dark Stories website, with no upfront payment required right now. Just add your name to the waiting list. Once we are sure enough of you want to survive the zombie apocalypse, we'll touch base with you to finalise your order.

This could be your last chance to learn these essential survival skills.

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Halloween – A Ghost Story

Ok, we grant you this is a couple of days late, but do please enjoy this 12-minute audio production. Just hit the play button and we are hoping it doesn't spook you out too much.

This Halloween Dark Story - The Quantum Ghost of Cape Estelle written by Peter Tucker - is late but does come courtesy of our friends at The Online Stage - producers of numerous AudioBook and Theatre Productions. Roughly 50% of their content is absolutely free to enjoy!

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