12 Palace Street, Westminster, London SW1E 5JA 020 7087 7900
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Ends 3rd December 2023.
Signed performances: 4th October 2023 at 2.30pm, 17th November 2023 at 7.30pm
Relaxed performance: 19th October 2023 at 7.30pm
A widowed teacher and a politician. Two old men chatting on a bench about life and a risk they could take to change it.
Sean Mathias directs Ian McKellen and Roger Allam in a transfer from Windsor of Ben Weatherill's witty play.
(seen at the afternoon performance on 13th September 2023)
CONTAINS SPOILERS THROUGHOUT.
The British answer to Herb Gardner’s “I'm Not Rappaport,” shifting location from a bench in New York’s Central Park to a pair of elderly male dog walkers on Hampstead Heath, London.
This time the friendship forms in the casual way regular attendees in a place do. Frank is a widowed high school teacher missing his wife always; Percy a divorced sociology lecturer still working and with his ex-husband living two streets away providing dog care as required.
Both Roger Allam (Frank) and Ian McKellen (Percy) clearly enjoy playing their roles – some of the laughing too hearty at lines they’ve played since June (this play came in from Windsor Theatre Royal). McKellen throws in plenty of “schtick” while Allam knows his place as foil.
Writer Ben Weatherill is content to bumble with occasional high-speed careens into random plot ideas. Frank goes from happily hetero married without a hint of homosexuality to a quick admission of “bi-sexual” to a full blown romance with Percy.
For Percy, a slam into reverse explains how a gay couple acquire a biological daughter, and sudden inspiration gives us Percy’s globe-trotting ways as an excuse for cowardice facing up to a failed relationship.
There’s the odd strong scene – nobody can fail to agree with McKellen’s T-shirt or take a momentary giggle at his “Gay Pride” sign. There’s also a mixture of strong one-liners and exceptionally crude ones where camp humour alters for the worse the tone the writer appeared to have originally wanted.
A truly horrible (and unreliable, at this performance) wooden circular set by Morgan Large is actively depressing, its blocks with lids moving on a revolve where a couple of chairs would have done the job far more effectively.
Lighting designer Nick Richings does well to instil any life into the dull birch surfaces, bleaching out the actors as little as he can.
Sean Mathias seems content to let the duo find their own way through the piece, and indulge the writer’s whims as more action is crammed into the final half hour than the rest of the not inconsiderable two hours ten minutes running time.
Good to see a pair of great actors, and to hear a story of older white men for a change – breaking the cycle of young late 20s single women at least. While not exactly dull, the disorganised material and lacklustre presentation make this a somewhat disappointing experience.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday at 2.30pm only
NO MONDAY PERFORMANCES.
Runs 2 hours 20 minutes approximately.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.