Frank and Percy

Rating: ★★★★
Venue: The Other Palace, London
Cast: Ian McKellen and Roger Allam

Frank and Percy is a poignant and witty take on the unexpected relationship that blossoms between two men.

In his new play Ben Weatherill lets us overhear Frank and Percy as they discuss the weather, then their dogs and then each other and so much more. Will the widowed schoolteacher and the elder statesman dare to risk changing their lives or let sleeping dogs lie?

With a cast of two of the greatest stage actors of our time, the expectations for Frank and Percy were high. Both Ian McKellen and Roger Allam are incredible actors and I was looking forward to seeing how they played off one another. It was, undoubtedly, an acting masterclass from these two theatre giants; and story aside, felt like an honour to watch them perform. 

Frank and Percy starts as an understated play about two senior dog owners who form an unlikely connection whilst taking their dogs for their daily walks. However, it gradually becomes so much more and highlights the stages of grief, navigating new relationships and the realities of aging. I think one of the best aspects of the play is watching their relationship blossom in the most authentic way; through the good, the bad and the downright hilarious!

The Other Palace houses a small stage, but with just two actors onstage, the stage still feels relatively big, With such a small cast and no microphones, it can be very difficult to fill the theatre, particularly in quieter moments. However, McKellen and Allam do so with ease and take command of the space that they're given.

Both the set and staging are simplistic. Although it's just a moving stage and a few wooden boxes, it seems to somehow work effectively as a field, a doctor's surgery, a restaurant and many other locations. It's amazing what the imagination can do with just a few boxes and a simple projection on the back wall of the theatre. Morgan Large's design is subtle, but exceptional for this production.

The play is filled with many laugh out loud moments, but there are also many heart-warming scenes throughout, that even had the audience audibly "aww"-ing, as if at a pantomime! Particular scenes I loved were the pride march scene, and the karaoke bar scene. They both radiated pure joy and happiness, which translated to the audience really well. Moments such as Frank saying he doesn't want a fuss made for this first pride and Percy saying he thinks he's missing the point of pride were genius, and very funny. The comedic timing was truly fantastic.

Roger Allam shines as the witty, no-nonsense, Frank and Ian McKellen steals the show as outrageously animated, Percy. Their differences are stark, but the play focuses very heavily on overcoming differences and living your life the way you'd like too anyway. The duo are poignant, honest and make the characters both easy to relate and connect to

While there were many parts of the play I loved, there were some parts which I found unnecessary, and brought little value to the story. Several scenes could be cut and I felt it wouldn't change how the audiences felt about the characters, and what we already knew of them. For this reason, some scenes did seem to drag.

While the story is somewhat predictable, it's an ageless piece of theatre that is both touching and feel-good, and lasts just over two hours. It's a brilliantly heart-breaking and heartbreakingly brilliant production. And if you want to hear an openly gay man talk about deep throating cucumbers, then this is play for you!

You can catch Frank and Percy at The Other Palace, until 17th December. Tickets here.

**photo credit: Jack Merriman**

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