Review: Frankie & Johnny, Minerva Theatre, Chichester

Michael Gondelle as Johnny, Leila Millson as Sandra and Mackenzie Gilmore as Alfie in rehearsal for Stephen Lowes Touched.

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We start with a bang! Before the lights are up Dervla Kirwan and Neil Stuke are engaging in a frantic sexual liaison that sets the scene. Intimate, raw, funny and genuinely tender… it’s the next two hours compressed into less than a minute of groans.

Kirwan’s waitress Frankie has invited fry-cook Johnny up to her apartment and we see this budding relationship go from a fling, to a declaration of love, stark honesty and revelation. Frankie is ballsy, but at the same time shy, Kirwan grounding her and making her the centre that Johnny can orbit. Stuke gives the Shakespeare-quoting cook a wise guy strut and an infectious giggle. There’s more than a hint of Joe Pesci in his beaten-down but chipper mentality.

In this play not a lot happens, but we get to watch a relationship build between two people so scarred by previous experience that one can’t open up while the other is touchingly honest, realising every moment is special. What makes it special is the sizzling chemistry between these two.

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