Frank & Percy at The Other Palace
Frank & Percy is everything you want it to be and more. Two acting legends, the incomparable Ian McKellen and Roger Allam, doing what they do best with a script that lets them do it.
While walking their dogs, two men meet again and again on Hampstead Heath. Small talk develops into big talk and a romantic relationship soon follows. Each scene is presented like a chapter in a novel. The first meeting on the Heath. The second. The third. A chapter at the local cafe. One at Percy’s house. And so on. Each five-minute chapter is introduced with its title projected as it begins.
If it were a novel, it would be one of the classy ones that sits in the window display of every Waterstones and gets talked about on the BBC. Ben Weatherill’s writing is incredibly moreish, it’s so pleasant you can’t help but want more.
Big themes ooze throughout, like the joys and difficulties of ageing, past loves, coming to terms with new-found bisexuality in later years, and dealing with clashing opinions within relationships. But Weatherill also knows how to make every detail just right. The dialogue is soaked to the bone with charm and wit. It’s sweet and warming, made all the more so by the bouts of sorrow that occasionally break through.
And it is always impressive when a writer can make characters who never once appear on stage feel like they’re really there. In this case, the dogs Toffee and Bruno, feel as real as Frank and Percy do.
Almost as beautiful as the script is the staging. A lovely, simple set of rotating wooden pieces form hills and tables and chairs and beds and all sorts, while a full-width background photo of the Heath is lit with different colours showing different seasons. Speaking of lighting, the shadows fall on the stage as if the light is poking through the tree branches. Everything is subtle, never getting in the way, only enhancing every moment. And it helps to draw the audience into an incredibly intimate atmosphere.
McKellen and Allam star as the titular characters and, well, they’re Ian McKellen and Roger Allam. All there is to say is that, as high as expectations might be, these two do not disappoint. It would be difficult to find a cast more special than this in all the theatres in the world.
Frank & Percy is a must-watch. For the story alone it is a must-watch. And if not for the story then for the humour. If not for the humour then for the charm. If not for the charm then for Ian McKellen. If not for Ian McKellen then for Roger Allam. And if not for Roger Allam then for Toffee and Bruno.
Frank & Percy is at The Other Palace from 26th September until 17th December 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.