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Frank and Percy - play review

Currently performing at The Other Palace, legendary duo, Ian McKellen and Roger Allam star in a sweet little two hander, following the titular characters from the moment they meet, as their relationship blossoms through a series of life events.

First spotting each other while walking their beloved dogs (though no actual furry friends are featured unfortunately), they strike up conversation, often beginning with some somewhat mundane small talk, but ending by disclosing new revelations about their personal histories. The pair exhibit the most perfect chemistry between them, as Frank (Ian McKellen) and Percy (Roger Allam) immediately depict the warmth that thrives in their presented friendship and allows audiences to be drawn into their world.

With script by Ben Weatherill, his writing explores an often unspoken demographic in a way that looks remarkably simple on the surface, yet harbours a particularly creative and complex mindset beneath. From the moment Percy is seen to be getting drenched in the rain, and his newfound mate appears with an umbrella for him, there is a beautifully gentle underlying tone that continues throughout to highlight the little wonders that come from basic everyday occurrences. Sharing depth in their experiences, from work and their favourite pupils - Frank being an author and sociologist speaker, Percy as a retired secondary school history teacher- to past relationships; death, pups, pride, and even a small dose of karaoke, the emotions portrayed are that people coping with navigating these in search of another soul to tell about them. Undoubtedly, there are disagreements in opinion, notably on climate change, but these only prove the partnership remains stronger than just these discussions. There is a significant relatability and rawness of seeing their growing bond develop over time like this: letting the dogs play in the park, or visiting the local coffee shop for a lemon square is all that is required to begin understanding the fine tuned nuances of one another.

Upon entering the auditorium, the soundtrack playing is a subtle nod towards songs with relevance to the piece, which is a lovely addition. The set is fairly unadorned, comprised of wooden panelling along the back, parting to show projections to set the scene, and a turntable of wooden blocks to match, used in a variety of ways. This relative plainness keeps the character conversations as the focal point following direction by Sean Mathias, with audiences hanging onto every word with a constantly engaged interest. An abundance of quick and extremely witty quips flow through the performance, often with both poignancy and genuine hilarity in each.

Being a pioneering front runner in gay advocacy throughout the arts and beyond for decades now, Ian McKellen continues this role in the production as Frank and Percy's connection starts to shift. There appears to be a good balance between this and friendship though; the boundaries upheld by the characters while also encouraging each other to flourish with authenticity. Two ingenious performances weave together to craft something a complete privilege to witness.

Ultimately, Frank and Percy is a delightfully charming show, depicting a solid example of expectation for everything a two hander should be. It highlights the importance of companionship, in whatever format this may be, and never knowing who you may meet, or what it could lead to.


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