Old friends play new friends

TWO of Britain’s greatest acting treasures, Sir Ian McKellen and Roger Allam, star in the world premiere of a poignant and witty drama, Frank and Percy, coming to Bath Theatre Royal from Tuesday 25th July to Saturday 5th August.

The two national treasures, old friends in real life, play two old men who meet while walking their dogs and, over time, become friends. The production, which opened at the Richmond Theatre, is directed by Sean Mathias.

Have you ever seen a couple of old boys on a park bench and wondered what they are chatting about? In his new play, Ben Weatherill lets us eavesdrop on Frank and Percy as they discuss the weather, their dogs and then each other and so much more. Will the widowed schoolteacher and the elder statesman dare to risk changing their lives or let sleeping dogs lie?

Director Sean Mathias says: “Ben Weatherill is a true young talent in the theatre. Frank and Percy explores the fragility and joy of relationships and what forges and strengthens bonds between humans, at a time when more than ever, we all need to love and support one another.”

Three-time Olivier Award winner and television and radio favourite, Roger Allam, has had a varied career that extends from Javert in the original production of Les Miserables, a memorable Falstaff and even more brilliant Prospero at Shakespeare’s Globe, and an outstanding Vanya in Uncle Vanya at Chichester, to roles in Game of Thrones and The Thick of It, ten years as DI Thursday in Endeavour and as one of the four-strong cast of Cabin Pressure, arguably the greatest ever Radio 4 comedy series.

Ian McKellen last visited Bath in March 2019 during his 80th birthday national tour of his one-man show, Ian McKellen On Stage with Tolkien, Shakespeare, others … and You!, also directed by Sean Mathias. Notable previous Bath appearances include Bent in 1990, and Waiting for Godot in 2009.

His performances as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy made him one of the world’s biggest film stars, but in spite of that and many other screen roles, he has never forsaken his first love – theatre, for which he has won countless awards. Nearly 20 years ago, Ian McKellen and Roger Allam starred together in the pantomime Aladdin for two consecutive Christmas seasons at London’s Old Vic Theatre, in 2004 and 2005.

Photograph by Jack Merriman