Frank and Percy
Theatre Royal Windsor until July 22
It would be well nigh impossible to put on a show with Ian McKellen and Roger Allam and not come up with something charming.
The two old stagers play the title roles in Ben Weatherill’s Frank and Percy, which is pretty much a retread of The Odd Couple. McKellen plays the Walter Matthau role – taking the view that life is very much about chaos – and Allam, more prim and correct as a retired teacher, is his Jack Lemmon. They are without doubt one of the great stage double acts.
There are a few variations on the old theme. Allam’s character, while mourning his wife after a long and happy marriage, is somewhat unconvincingly lured into a physical relationship with McKellen, and McKellen, for his part, turns out to be a writer of books denying climate science.
These are however little more than asides to the piece, written by a rather youthful playwright, that talks maturely about the challenges of old age and of sustaining relationships.
The director, Sean Matthias wisely lets his two principals just do their thing and it’s their respect for each other – and their audience – that makes this work so well.
I have occasionally lamented in this space how my generation never got to see the greats like Olivier, Gielgud and Richardson on stage. But we have McKellen, who I think future generations will look back on with every bit as much reverence. It is certainly an enormous privilege to see him perform.