Frank and Percy. Photo by Jack Merriman

Frank and Percy Reviews – Starring Ian McKellen & Roger Allam

Reviews are coming in for Bill Kenwright’s production of new play Frank and Percy, starring Ian McKellen and Roger Allam.

Written by Ben Weatherill and directed by Sean Mathias, the play is running at the Theatre Royal Windsor until 22 July 2023, and then the Theatre Royal Bath from 25 July to 5 August 2023.

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

Both Frank and Percy are completely devoted to their dogs, but aren’t so sure about the value of human connections. As their dogs play in the park, can Frank, a widowed schoolteacher and Percy, a somewhat radical elder statesman, find the time for new infatuation, or should they just let sleeping dogs lie?

There is currently no news on whether Frank and Percy will tour, or transfer into the West End – but sign-up to our email alerts to be the first to hear.

A film adaptation, through Bill Kenwright’s TV and film production outfit, is on the cards.

Read reviews, below, from the Times, Telegraph, The Stage, and more, with further reviews to be added.

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Frank and Percy reviews

The Times

"Ian McKellen and Roger Allam are note perfect in moving male study"

"Try to imagine what would happen if Alan Bennett were to rewrite Brokeback Mountain, throwaway remarks about custard creams taking the place of torrid couplings. That’s one way to think about Ben Weatherill’s droll and deeply touching play about two men, both well into the autumn of their lives, who meet while walking their dogs on Hampstead Heath and gradually fall into the rhythms of a new relationship."

"What gives this unpredictable two-hander extra resonance is the casting. The venerable Ian McKellen and Roger Allam are note perfect as the duo who chat and bicker and edge towards a fragile sense of mutual understanding in a concise series of scenes. Even when they lapse into awkward silences, they remain profoundly expressive."

"In Sean Mathias’s finely judged production, we see two individuals who, at first anyway, exchange niceties and, like so many men, seem wary of unburdening themselves."

"Weatherill pushes the conversation into bleaker territory. Death casts a shadow. Percy, meanwhile, is often petulant, egotistical and maddeningly unreasonable. In other words, he is all too human."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Evening Standard

"Ian McKellen and Roger Allam in a radical odd-couple romance"

"If you want to hear Ian McKellen make jokes about deep-throating a cucumber, this is the show for you"

"It’s a formidable duo. Allam is as brilliantly dry as ever, his face all guilelessness and impassivity. When romance emerges, the fact that Percy is a man is rather sweetly unremarkable to him. His buttoned-up naturalism clashes believably with McKellen’s camper, more dramatic style, full of flinging arms and his trademark long linger on the end of certain wordssss."

"The odd couple effect comes through brilliantly: as Percy reminisces about a 28-year-old toyboy he once had a fling with, with reference to his own ‘dextrous tongue’, Allam’s face flickers between surprise, confusion, horror and delight while also barely changing at all."

"It’s certainly not a flawless play: Weatherill, whose previous work has been in fringe theatres, struggles with a larger canvas. Several scenes could be cut and the play would be better for it..."

"What’s abundantly clear is how much fun the duo are having. Behind that is something more profound as McKellen, now in his mid-eighties, still finds new ways to be a fierce activist for LGBTQ rights and representation."

Tim Bano, The Evening Standard
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The Stage

"Allam and McKellen are wonderfully watchable"

"Tender performances animate this dramatically inert comedy about queer love in later life"

"Like the unhurried relationship at the story’s heart, this sweet-natured odd couple comedy – directed by Sean Mathias and featuring warm performances from Roger Allam and Ian McKellen – takes a long time to get going."

"Weatherill’s meandering script has some nice moments of humour – though too many punchlines involve fat-shaming Frank’s dog. There are plenty of promising themes here too, though none are explored sufficiently."

"Allam and McKellen are wonderfully watchable, sharing an easy, believable chemistry and wringing laughs and bittersweet emotion from the intentionally mundane dialogue. McKellen’s witty, intellectual Percy is by turns dry and charming, prickly and tender, but prone to lashing out when he feels he’s losing control."

"Mathias keeps the slowly paced production on just the right side of sentimentality. Poignant moments are balanced by a handful of fun set pieces"

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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Daily Mail

"Ian McKellen proves age is no barrier to laughter"

"The charming thing about Ben Weatherill's left-field romcom is that it's rooted in the inconsequential trivia of everyday life."

"Although barely out of shorts, Weatherill has a mature and fond feel for life in old age. His play is full of psychological nuance – crabbiness and levity – as the two men's attachment grows on them (and us) like creeper. But as a stealth comedy there are at least four episodes of a TV sitcom buried here, and brilliant lines include McKellen's stoical remark, 'We've got half an hour before the Viagra kicks in.'"

"At two and a half hours, it is a little long for comedy. But who doesn't want to see McKellen in a tutu, Allam mixing shiny rainbow shorts with socks and sandals, or the pair of them howling like geriatric canines at a karaoke bar?"

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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The Guardian

"McKellen and Allam’s banter meanders into romance"

"Ian McKellen and Roger Allam star in a rambling but unabashed depiction of desire after middle-age"

"... Ben Weatherill’s two-hander, Frank and Percy, an undemanding, over-extended meander through a friendship that blossoms into romance."

"Allam, previously seen with McKellen under Sean Mathias’s direction in Aladdin, is sweetly bumbling, though given what we discover about Frank’s past, he rather overdoes his initial surprise about Percy’s sexuality. McKellen is better when flashing his claws than in, say, a monologue about watermelons that recalls Peter Cook’s EL Wisty. A high point is his on-stage, pre-Pride costume change performed with a flourish."

"Not all Weatherill’s attempts at topicality pan out: an entire scene is lost to a dead-end digression on no-platforming. But there are instances of genuine pathos"

Ryan Gilbey, The Guardian
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The Telegraph

"Ian McKellen and Roger Allam charm, but the play lets them down"

"The two great actors have fun as old-timers who form a surprising romantic bond, but both play and production fail to measure up"

"Ben Weatherill wrote his gentle two-hander during lockdown, struck by the odd interactions triggered by dog ownership."

"On the whole, though, the play and Sean Mathias’s anodyne production keep letting each other down. It’s cheap to hoover up default lols simply from two old codgers doing karaoke, no matter how spiritedly they murder Dolly Parton. Passages in which they buy ties at M&S or compare their dogs’ eating habits are like Alan Bennett minus the salt. Good-natured as it is, the evening has a rather plump complacency, and there’s not enough risk or truth-seeking beneath its comforting contours."

"Being readied is a film adaptation, which could easily be better: it’s funny how romcoms tend to stall without weather, settings, noise, street life, or any minor characters to place them in the real world."

Tim Robey, The Telegraph
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i News

"Ian McKellen and Roger Allam lack sexual chemistry"

"Sweet as it is to watch two national treasures fall in love, the play lacks depth"

"Rarely has a British play promised us so much canine content, yet failed to deliver the goods – or the dogs."

"Weatherill’s real interest is the burgeoning relationship between Percy, an out, proud and curmudgeonly sociology professor with a side-line in conspiracy theories, and Frank, a teacher mourning the death of his wife Alice and inhibited not so much by exclusive heterosexuality as by grief."

"If only there was anything here to give more substance to this celebration. The romance seems a foregone conclusion, with two brief ruptures clunkingly telegraphed in advance and just as superficially resolved. For a show that is frank with its sexual jokes in the abstract, there’s little exploration of what it might be like for Allam’s character to experience sex with a man for the first time."

"Weatherill might have done better with longer time in development to rustle up more of his excellent one-liners."

Kate Maltby, i News
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The Financial Times

"There’s plenty of comedy here... But there’s also a delicate exploration of the challenge of risking your heart in later years."

"It’s a show that frustrates as much as it beguiles, however. Weatherill’s script and Sean Mathias’s production move too slowly, the plot twists are clunky and several huge themes arise without being fully developed. But McKellen and Allam make a droll comic double act who gradually discover a tender bond."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Sunday Times

"Roger Allam and Ian McKellen are paired in a gentle new comedy at Windsor’s under-ventilated Theatre Royal. Frank and Percy is, for much of the time, agreeably English and dry, or at least as dry as one can be in such stifling temperatures."

"Ben Weatherill’s play, staged with stylish simplicity, has a few sweet touches. Although the pace and setting may evoke Alan Bennett, the script has an attractive spareness that lifts it to something more than Bennett pastiche. Things go awry only when the director, Sean Mathias, allows McKellen to overdo things."

"However long Allam and McKellen spent in rehearsals, it was not enough. There is a whiff of hammy narcissism to this enterprise and it may be time for McKellen, or his vanity, to retire."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Frank and Percy

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📷 Main photo: Frank and Percy. Photo by Jack Merriman

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