Review: Frank and Percy


by Mike Matthaiakis

In “Frank and Percy,” Ian McKellen and Roger Allam deliver delightful performances in a spikey comedy that explores love in later life. Directed by Sean Mathias, the play revolves around two grumpy dog owners from Yorkshire, McKellen’s Percy and Allam’s Frank, who find companionship and romance in each other’s company.

The astonishing fact that McKellen, now in his mid-80s, has continued to grace the stage with five major performances in just four years is commendable. “Frank and Percy” joins his impressive list of recent stage ventures, showcasing his dedication to live theatre.

Penned by Ben Weatherill, the comedy-drama introduces us to Percy and Frank, who form an unlikely friendship after meeting in Hampstead Heath. Loneliness, divorce for Percy, and being widowed for Frank, prompt them to schedule walks together with their canine companions. The narrative takes an interesting turn when Percy reveals that his ex was a man, leading to a charged moment during a lunch invitation.

While the play has its share of didactic moments, particularly in Frank’s coming-out process, it provides a heartwarming portrayal of a passionate senior love story. Scenes of the pair preparing for Pride or engaging in karaoke add to the uplifting narrative. Despite their old-age grumpiness, the characters’ droll humor, especially Percy’s complaints about Viagra, adds a layer of charm to the story.

Weatherill’s writing skillfully weaves an uplifting tale while addressing the challenges of starting a new relationship later in life, emphasizing the difficulties of change and the weight of lifetime baggage.

However, a somewhat bizarre subplot involving Percy’s involvement in climate change conspiracy theories feels disconnected and unclear in its purpose. The play introduces Percy attending a dubious conference in America, facing repercussions from Durham University, and releasing a controversial book. Yet, these elements appear as background color without a clear narrative purpose.

Directed crisply by Mathias, “Frank and Percy” avoids grandstanding and valedictory showcases. Instead, it presents two accomplished actors flexing their comedy muscles and delivering authentic Yorkshire accents. Allam’s portrayal of the sweet and openhearted Frank complements McKellen’s spikey and amorous Percy. The play offers a cozy atmosphere, and the end-of-first-act snog between the venerable duo feels quietly radical, adding a touch of unexpected charm to the narrative.

Frank and Percy is at the Theatre Royal Windsor.