REVIEW: 84 Charing Cross Road/Malvern Theatres.

A TIME before social media, tweets, emails, apps, Instagram… who could possibly imagine such a world, a spinning planet where people actually spoke to each other, wrote letters and even read books?

Yes, what a nightmare prospect that would be these days for anyone under the age of 40.

Yet, once upon a time, everyone communicated by pressing a pen or pencil to a sheet of paper, placing the end result in something called an envelope, attaching a postage stamp and sending it on its way.

This gently paced and absorbing play is the story of struggling American writer Helene Hanff and her years of corresponding with London bookseller Frank Doel.

For more than two decades, she ordered antiquarian books from the ever-obliging Doel, who meticulously parcelled them up for their journey across the Atlantic.

Director Richard Beecham creates a wonderful period feel to a story that starts in the last days of wartime rationing and ends with the age of the Beatles.

Interestingly, we are also reminded of how labour intensive the world of work was back then. Who would have thought in this zero hours age that even a London bookshop might once have employed up to six persons?

Helene Hanff’s story is a life-affirming fable of a time when people made time for each other rather than endlessly gazing at an oblong of plastic.

The play runs until tomorrow Saturday (June 9).