I’m Tracey Rontree and I’m playing Helene Hanff, the author of the book 84 Charing Cross Road. Just a small part then … not!
This is my 3rd play with Saddleworth Players and it is a great honour to be invited back to play this mammoth part. Helene is a dream to play. She’s quirky, charming, endearing, a little eccentric and feisty. She falls in love with the bookshop, Marks & Company, address 84 Charing Cross Road and clearly has a soft spot for Frank Doel, an antiquarian bookseller working in the shop. She lives for the day when she can visit the shop in London and finally meet Frank, even though, in her own words … ‘She writes them the most outrageous letters from a safe 3000 miles away’.
Helene is also a challenging part. Not only is she a non-fictional character, meaning the actress has to be true to her, she’s also American, born in Philadelphia and living in New York … and there’s me with the broadest English northern accent you’ve ever heard … and we don’t have the luxury of a dialect coach in amateur theatre world. In fact, a liking for gin is the only common denominator that Helene and I have. However, I can promise you that I’m up for the challenge and I’m working very hard to bring you Helene Hanff as true to life as possible.
So, opening night is fast approaching and the nerves have started to kick in. I can already feel those butterflies hatching and crazily flying around in my stomach. It’s over a year since I last performed but I can vividly remember those feelings on opening night … stood in the wings waiting for that first entrance and the thought that enters my head: “Why do I do this? I’m petrified!” Then you enter, deliver your first speech and you’re there … all the time you’ve dedicated to bringing that character to life starts to pay off and you’re suddenly performing to an appreciative audience. Then, I remember why I do it … I love it … and if those nerves ever disappear, I know it will be time to hang up my theatre masks.
Why not kick start your Christmas celebrations with a pre-Christmas treat and come along to see how this transatlantic love affair develops and ends. I always get lots of support from family and friends but it would be great to see some new faces in that appreciative audience.
See you in the bar afterwards where I’ll be raising a glass of gin in honour of Helene Hanff.
‘84 Charing Cross Road’ will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre from 23 – 30 November. Tickets available from the Millgate website (millgateartscentre.co.uk) or by telephoning the Box Office on 01457 874644, Tuesdays 2pm–5pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays 2pm–7pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 9:30am–1pm.