On Stage and Screen
The Definitive Helene Hanff Website
'84' on stage - TAKE 1... 1981 saw the first production of "84" on the stage - at the
Ambassador's Theatre in the West End, London - with Rosemary Leach and David Swift
playing Helene and Frank. The show ran successfully for three years.
How did this come about?
The book of '84' was adapted for the stage by James Roose-Evans and was first shown at the
Salisbury Summer Theatre Festival in the summer of 1981. That summer was a frantic one for
Helene - she had had cataract surgery on both her eyes and spent her entire time afterwards
trying to get used to wearing cataract spectacles (through which she couldn't see) or trying to
get her eyes to accept contact lenses which kept on falling out. She was therefore unable to
attend the production in Salisbury, which received wonderful reviews. In her words: "In
October, James Roose-Evans wrote to say that he had sold 84 Charing Cross Road to a
London West End producer named Michael Reddington. I wrote and congratulated him,
and went on trying to hypnotize my right lens, which went on dropping out."
Michael Reddington's production was due to open at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on
Thanksgiving Day - Thursday 26th November 1981 - and he asked Helene to come to London
for the opening night. Worrying about losing her contact lenses at Heathrow Airport and
being left to the mercy of her 'fun house spectacles', she made her excuses not to travel to
London. The impact of what was happening finally hit Helene - when her friend Richard told
her "After all the years you spent trying to crash the theatre as a playwright, somebody's
made a play from your book, it's opening in the West End - and you're not going to the
Opening?" Helene flew to London...
Both of the following photographs were very kindly scanned and emailed to me for inclusion
here by Adrian Hall, who played William Humphries in this production, and who emailed me
after reading these web pages. Many thanks, Adrian!!!!
Group photo: Far left - Charles Kinross (understudy), top back - Sue Best (Joan Todd), front -
Charmian May (Megan Wells), Barbara Ward (Cecily Farr), Helene Hanff, back- James
Roose-Evans (adapter and director), front - Adrian Hall (William Humphries), Rosemary
Leach (playing Helene Hanff), David Swift (Frank Doel).
Rosemary Leach and David
Swift as Helene Hanff and
Select a production...
ON STAGE - LONDON
1981 - Rosemary Leach and David Swift as Helene
Hanff and Frank Doel.
1988 - Anne Bancroft and Sir Anthony Hopkins as
Helene Hanff and Frank Doel.