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Alphabetical Order needs authenticity - and you can help

PUBLISHED: 19:07 24 March 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 07 September 2010

IT isn t often that people of my age find themselves in a cellar with three attractive young women, but it happened last Friday. I should say that I was accompanied by colleagues Steve Fenton and Ryan Michael, and that the three ladies in question were mu

IT isn't often that people of my age find themselves in a cellar with three attractive young women, but it happened last Friday. I should say that I was accompanied by colleagues Steve Fenton and Ryan Michael, and that the three ladies in question were much more interested in dusty old files containing ancient copies of the Ham&High than they were in any of us.

As a result of this journey into the underground labyrinth of 100 Avenue Road, the Ham&High may well play a starring role in Hampstead Theatre's next production, Michael Frayn's Alphabetical Order. Or at least our oldest bits and pieces will - and yours can too, dear reader.

The play is set in the cuttings library of a weekly newspaper in the 1970s. While cuttings libraries long ago went out of fashion - if not with the Ark, then certainly with the advent of new technology - I still remember their musty magnificence with fondness.

Hallowed ground, they were, when I was starting out as a junior reporter.

Usually patrolled by a dictatorial librarian, they were places where an entire community's heart could be heard, beating faintly between rows of filing cabinets crammed with manilla envelopes that in turn were stuffed with yellowing cuttings until the edges frayed.

Once while researching an article on town planning, I arrived early one morning to find a senior colleague curled up like a dormouse among the bundles of back copies heaped in a corner. Turned out he'd be bedding down there for years, usually when he'd had one too many following a hard day's loitering around the town's hostelries.

Anyway, back to our starring role. Our Hampstead Theatre friends who joined us in the basement need to design an authentic set for Alphabetical Order. Hence the tour of our oldest and dearest assets. You can help too.

The play is set in the early 1970s and if you have any of the following items from that era and are prepared to lend them out from April 16 - May 16, the theatre will be delighted to hear from you. Email becky@hampsteadtheatre.com if you can help:

Becky's wish list includes: office stationery (including scissors, hole punches, etc), 1970s telephone directories, reference books, in-trays, old newspapers and magazines, ink stamps, train timetables (from the 1950s) old first aid boxes, reporter-style notebooks, glass milk bottles and lateral files, new and used.

Happy hunting!

Geoff Martin

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