(John Reed, 2018)
The much-anticipated play by Niamh Gleeson recently arrived on the shores of Bathers Beach in Fremantle. Performed in the iconic Kidogo Art House, the play follows the life of Frankie Byrne, an Irish broadcaster best known for her role as agony aunt. Aired on arguably one of the most popular commercial radio programmes on the Irish National Broadcaster RTE, Frankie rose to stardom for her tongue-in-cheek responses to her fans’ letters. Many saw her as the confidante they never had, someone with experience in the affairs of the heart as well as a sharp tongue to rip away those rose-tinted glasses.
Though she led a successful life on air, Frankie’s personal affairs were far from perfect. The play outlines the trials and tribulations of a public personality kept separate from her true self. Set on a stage decked out in 60’s décor, Alide Chaney’s depiction of Frankie is both genuine and moving. Starring alongside her are Mike Anthony Sheehy and Jennifer McGrath, both brilliantly interchanging between a slew of characters, making the play even more interesting and hilarious. The deliberate set up of the audience within the cosy confines of the Art House made for an intimate performance and it’s no surprise that a breath of anticipation hung in the air as each major event unfolded, and all that was needed was its three-person cast to portray these larger than life personalities.
However, it was definitely a play made for an audience able to appreciate Irish humour and the state of Ireland in the 1960’s. References to well-known issues plaguing their community at the time may be lost to those unfamiliar with them, although anyone would be able to enjoy the sarcastic overtones of the play. Although Frankie passed away with dementia, she never lost her zest and will be fondly remembered by many.
Dear Frankie was a wonderful production touching upon the ever-present issues of happiness and legacy.