The Other Palace, London
Written by Ben Weatherill
Directed by Sean Mathias
|Ian McKellen and Roger Allam|
It is said that Ian McKellen could enchant an audience if he simply ready a telephone directory aloud. The man’s physical and vocal presence is unmatched, as is his versatility and good job too, for without McKellen’s finely honed craft Frank and Percy would make for a far less entertaining night in the theatre.
Frank (played by Roger Allam) and Percy (McKellen) are two men in their third-age who meet by chance encounter while walking their dogs on Hampstead Heath. Allam, another fine performer, proving the perfect foil to McKellen’s razor sharp timing and wit. There’s a spark of interest between them that blossoms into a tender love and as a study of latter-years romance, Ben Weatherill’s drama had the potential to be quite the power-play.
That chance is squandered however as notwithstanding some episodes of finely nuanced pathos - Percy describing the angst of being outed in his youth, or his fragile vulnerability as he awaits a frightening medical appointment - too much of the dialogue comprises moments of maudlin mediocrity, seasoned with a skimming of contemporary hot-topics so shallow it almost insults the talent on stage delivering the script. There is some well observed comment on the importance of dog ownership to a person’s emotional well-being, sentiments that will fall warmly on the dog-lovers in the audience.
See it if only to catch that rarest of masterclasses, in which McKellen and Allam breathe life into a well-intentioned but surprisingly flawed text.
Runs until 17th December
Photo credit: Jack Merriman