Frankie & Johnny In The Clair De Lune @ The Minerva, Chichester

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We begin at the climax… the lights are out, grunts, groans and guttural utterances emanate from the stage. The lights come up and we see two people half wrapped in the sheets basking in the post coital glow. He wants to discuss his feelings, she longs for the cigarettes she gave up years ago.

It’s a great shame that Terrence McNally’s intimate, character driven plays don’t get more exposure on this side of the Atlantic, but it’s clear watching tonight’s performance that the piece is so richly American from the setting to the rhythms of the dialogue that it’s a tricky proposition for an actor or director to take on.

Thankfully, Chichester have once again shown their knack for getting the right people into the right place at the right time. Dervla Kirwan is wonderful as Frankie. Emotionally withdrawn, fearful of commitment and wary of the man she has just invited into her bed, she’s the grounded centre of the piece. When Johnny wants to elaborate on how much he loves her and how important the moment is, she just wants a meatball sandwich.

For all that Frankie holds herself in, Neil Stuke’s Johnny is a never ending fountain, pouring out emotion, opinion and random conversation. Strutting about the apartment in his underpants, chest puffed out, there’s a mix of DeVito and Pesci in the performance that’s highlighted by a near perfect Brooklyn Eye-talian drawl. He’s a bum with a heart of gold, a Shakespeare quoting grill cook looking for true love.

As night passes into morning their passion becomes anger and eventually blossoms into the sort of cosy domesticity of a long-term relationship without ever losing the volatile edge that carries them through the piece.  The crowded apartment set hems the pair in and Paulette Randall has clearly allowed the pair a lot of free reign, keeping the direction simple and allowing McNally’s superb dialogue to tell the story.

Matt

Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about rugby and is passionate about providing insight into women's rugby! He also writes on theatre and regularly reviews shows across the south.

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